London Classic Theatre celebrate 20 years with this production of the Alan Ayckbourn classic comedy, Absurd Person Singular. We’re in the peak of the 1970s. Take three married couples, three kitchens and three Christmas Eve parties. What could possibly go wrong?
We begin with meeting the small-time tradesman Sidney Hopcroft (Paul Sandys), who persuades his wife Jane (Felicity Houlbrooke) to throw a Christmas Eve party with the hope of impressing the bank manager and local architect. As the celebrations begin, class differences become evident; and hilarity ensues as one by one, the characters seek refuge in Jane’s kitchen.
Over the next two years, the Jackson’s (Helen Keeley and John Dorney) and Brewster-Wrights (Rosanna Miles and Graham O’Mara) take turns to host festivities. As Sidney’s success in business has begun to rise, the roles are rapidly reversed as the cracks in the other couples’ marriages begin to show. From drinking problems, deep depressions, awkward friendships, and romance rifts; it covers it all.
The way Alan Ayckbourn’s writing has captured the class division and social climbing of the 1970s in a combination of farce and black comedy is very clever. The characters are well-written, and you find yourself relating them to people you know in your life. The cast are brilliant, and I love the journey each character goes on and how the cast play it out.
Michael Cabot’s direction is strong, capturing the hysteria in each Christmas well. There are a few awkward silences in Act One, when the stage is empty as the characters exit the kitchen but equally it’s clever and unique in the ways it adds to the general awkwardness of the evening. Simon Scullion’s set designs of the three kitchens really represents each couple perfectly, especially at that point in their life, and it’s really nicely woven into the piece.
Overall, this is a very British comedy and well-crafted bit of theatre. I can see why Ayckbourn is passionate about keeping his work on the stage (rather than film or TV) as it keeps audiences drawn to the theatre and captures that energy and hysteria in a more realistic manner. It’s a great evening out for a little bit of light-relief and laughter!
Absurd Person Singular runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until Saturday 7th March. For more information or to book visit wolseytheatre.co.uk/absurd-person-singular.
The show continues on tour, including stops at Bury St Edmunds, Peterborough, and Lowestoft. Details here: londonclassictheatre.co.uk/absurd-person-singular.