|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (July 2011)|
Separate Tables is the collective name of two one-act plays written by Sir Terence Rattigan, both taking place in the Beauregard Private Hotel, Bournemouth, a seaside town on the south coast of England. The first play, entitled "Table by the Window", focuses on the troubled relationship between a disgraced Labour politician and his ex-wife. The second play, "Table Number Seven", is set about eighteen months after the events of the previous play, and deals with the touching friendship between a repressed spinster and a retired English army officer, Major Pollock. The secondary characters - permanent residents, the hotel's manager, and members of the staff - appear in both plays.
Separate Tables had its premiere at the St James's Theatre in London on 22 September 1954. It was originally intended that the main roles should be played by Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, who had scored quite a success with Rattigan's The Sleeping Prince. They asked Rattigan to postpone the production to fit in with their schedule, but the play could not wait. It opened instead with Margaret Leighton and Eric Portman in the leading roles. They were later to take the play to Broadway.
The play opened to good reviews and Harold Hobson called the second play in the double-bill, "one of Rattigan's masterpieces, in which he shows in superlative degree his pathos, his humour and his astounding mastery over the English language...".
Separate Tables was first presented at The Music Box, New York City, on October 25, 1956. It was directed by Peter Glenville, with sets by Michael Weight and lighting by Paul Morrison. The cast included May Hallatt (Miss Meacham), William Podmore (Mr. Fowler) and Phyllis Neilson-Terry (Mrs. Railton-Bell). The principal roles in both plays were portrayed by the same actors. Margaret Leighton played the glamorous Mrs. Shankland in "Table by the Window" and the dowdy, bespectacled Sibyl in "Table Number Seven". The roles of the hot-blooded politician and the ex-officer Major Pollock were portrayed by Eric Portman.
The 1958 film, with a few extra parts, was adapted for the screen by Rattigan. It starred Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Burt Lancaster, and Wendy Hiller — Niven and Hiller won Oscars for their roles.