Absurd Person Singular visits three couples in their three kitchens on the Christmas Eves of three successive years: the lower-class Hopcrofts; their bank manager and his wife; and their architect neighbour with a suicidal wife. The Hopcrofts’ advance and the other couples’ decline are played out against a series of behind-the-scenes Christmas party disasters.
The three couples are played by David Bamber, Jane Horrocks, John Gordon Sinclair, Lia Williams, David Horovitch and Jenny Seagrove. The production is directed by Alan Strachan, designed by Michael Pavelka and presented by Bill Kenwright Ltd. One of the most prolific playwrights in British history, Alan Ayckbourn has written more than 70 plays, most of them premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre where he was artistic director for 36 years. He stepped down earlier this year, following a debilitating stroke (See News, 4 Jun 2007).
His West End comeback with this revival of Absurd Person Singular drew “seriously pleasurable” cries from first-night critics. In Alan Strachan’s “niftily directed” and “strongly cast, finely acted production”, critics were particularly impressed by the female leads: Lia Williams’ “freaky” Eva, Jenny Seagrove’s “brilliant” and “poignant” Marian, and Jane Horrocks’ “blissful” and “amusing” Jane. While remaining “knock-dead funny”, Ayckbourn’s ability to deal simultaneously with serious subjects of class and “casual callousness” and thereby convey a “dark” and “deeply poignant” message was well appreciated. “A glorious period treat” all round!
- by Tom Atkins