Photos by Right Image Photography Inc.

THE SHAPE OF THE TABLE by David Edgar

Plot Summary

The Shape of the Table takes us into the room where an Eastern European country’s present communist government and its democratic opposition ultimately decide whether an historic transfer of power will be a monument to peace or an all but unimaginable bloodbath.

Taking place over about six months, in the beginning it is Pavel Prus, a jailed dissident intellectual, who is brought to the room to sign a paper asking for a pardon from the regime, a compromise he refuses to accept; at the end it is the first secretary of the Communist Party who is asked to sign a piece of paper, again an effort to gloss over facts and avoid actually confronting the truth.

From small popular uprisings, to a complete change of government, events unfold quickly outside. At first, the regime’s only thought is of how to suppress the uprisings, while later it all comes down to negotiating exactly how much power can be held onto, how the new government should look, and how the old regime should suffer for its years of misrule. Even before the transition is complete the first inklings of unexpected, unwanted side effects become apparent—different kinds of corruption, racially motivated violence, and more.”][/tagline_box]

Themes & Parallels

Written in the days following the fall of the Berlin wall (and the same year that the communist governments of Poland and Czechoslovakia fell) as an almost instantaneous response to the events taking place, the piece parallels the bureaucratic reunification of Berlin. Themes of almost claustrophobic enclosure run through the piece. The concept of language features in the piece as well: while the characters speak a common tongue throughout the negotiations the actual “language” of negotiation is very ambiguous, a feature that makes the negotiations possible. At the play’s end the government must give in to the opposition’s demands but uses the language of their documentation to save face. The title of the play refers to a controversial incident surrounding negotiations held during the Vietnam War. Diplomats from the US, Saigon and Communist leaders took much time deciding the seating positions of delegates before discussions could even begin.

Characters and Actors

View Trailer Here.
 
Pavel PRUS, writer, early 40s, a protest movement leader/ Brian Linden

Monica FREIE, administrative assistant, 20s / Hope Hynes

Petr VLADISLAV, minister of communications, late 30s / Thaddeus Walker

Josef LUTZ, first secretary of the Communist Party, early 60s / Tim Davis

Michal KAPLAN, prime minister, late 50s / Peter Tedeschi

Jan MILEV, secretary of trade unions, mid-40s / Jeff Aguiar

Vera ROUSOVA, coalition party deputy, mid-50s / Julie Oliver

Jan MATKOVIC, Catholic intellectual, middle aged / Brook North

Andrei ZIETEK, student leader, early 20s / Jon Fitts

Victoria BRODSKAYA, opposition secretary, 21 / Maggie Lea

Victor SPASSOV, former First Secretary, early 60s / Tom McCleister

A BISHOP (Rajeev Randjaran,) a SOCIAL DEMOCRAT / Matt Hager, a YOUTH LEADER / Joey Heyworth, MINISTER of DEFENCE / Greg Paul

Production History

8 November, 1990 National Theater London Directed by Jenny Killick
14 November 2009 BBC Radio 4 Directed by Peter Leslie Wild (Radio Play)
7 April 2011 Burning Coal Theatre, Raleigh, NC Directed by Jerome Davis