Ten Times Table Review

Grand Opera House, York – until 15 February 2020

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson


Ten Times Table was written in 1977 by Alan Ayckbourn. It tells the story of an inexperienced Chairman, Ray (Robert Daws) attempting to form a committee in order to perform a re-enactment of the massacre of the Pendon Twelve, a bit of local history he has dug up from somewhere, and the setting up of the Pendon Folk Festival.

This production has a cast that a lot will recognise, as most of the actors have previously appeared on well known television shows. Daws, being joined by Deborah Grant, Craig Grazey, Mark Curry, Robert Duncan and Gemma Oaten.

Set wholly around a table, bar the final scene, at the local Swan Hotel, it appears to be a bit of a dump in need of some renovation, with temperamental lights and the heating not working. Ray has recruited several members to sit on his committee, with all their own ideas, political leanings and personal problems. We soon find out that running a committee is harder than you think, with all the protocol bogging it down, and enlisting enough reliable members.

Ray with the help of Donald (Mark Curry), who is a veteran of committees and obsessive that it should be run properly, try and hold things together. Over the course of their weekly meetings we see how plans unravel and the opposing political views have a detrimental effect on proceedings, especially between outspoken, right wing Helen (Grant), Ray’s wife, and Marxist Eric (Gazey). What starts as a team coming together, soon turns into two camps only out for their own agenda. Daws as the keen Ray, provides some laughs with the noises he emits as he becomes more exasperated as things go wrong.

The first half is really a drawn out affair, with several meetings taking place, quite dull in fact. It did have its moments with some laugh out loud but, but too few and far between.

Thankfully this improved during the second half when chaos ensued. With the involvement of former army man Tim (Harry Gostelow), things take a more sinister turn. Guns at the ready and each side ready for battle, we see it reach its farcical outcome. This was so much more entertaining and was over far too quickly, and less that half the time of the laborious first half. At least it ended on a high.

Even though it had its moments and through no fault of the actors, I found it hard to believe in or empathise with any of the characters on the stage. Some of the characters needed more meat in their roles, they were just lacking that bit of something.