Absurd Person easily Ayckbourn’s best’
PUBLISHED: 15:02 02 December 2009 | UPDATED: 17:19 16 August 2010
WITH its trio of Christmases Past, Present and Future, Alan Ayckbourn s Absurd Person Singular reads like a twisted version of A Christmas Carol set in the garden suburbs,
WITH its trio of Christmases Past, Present and Future, Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular reads like a twisted version of A Christmas Carol set in the garden suburbs, writes Mark Campbell.
The play, at Bromley's Churchill theatre, consisted of three virtually self-contained acts set in the kitchens of three couples on Christmas Eve.
Act I opens with Sidney (Matthew Cottle) and Jane (Lisa Kay) nervously awaiting the arrival of unseen guests.
They bustle in and out of their quintessentially 1970s kitchen, with its subtly unmatching colour scheme, desperately trying to impress their friends with their (incompetent) hosting abilities.
Ronald (Robert Duncan), a prosperous banker, and his snobby alcoholic wife Marion (Deborah Grant) are Sidney's primary targets - he needs to borrow money for his fledgling property business and will do anything to get it.
Eva (Elizabeth Carling) and her architect husband Geoffrey (Stephen Beckett) are the third, and youngest, couple.
Geoffrey is an inveterate womaniser, while Eva is taking medicine for her nerves. Things do not bode well for them
In Act II, Eva and Geoffrey are hosting an impromptu party in their apartment. In what is a brilliant example of black humour, the depressed Eva tries to kill herself in a variety of ways - but is complete ignored by her friends.
Sidney unblocks her sink, Jane cleans her oven (pouring the dirty water over Sidney in the process), and poor Ronald is electrocuted by a light fitting.
You don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Act III is set in the unfeasibly gothic kitchen of Ronald, now on his uppers and reliant on Sidney's money to keep his finances afloat.
Set in the future, this is the most nightmarish of the trio. At the end, we see Sidney literally leading the others a merry dance around him.
The cast of six is superb. They may be playing archetypal comic suburbanites - think The Good Life or Abigail's Party - but it's impossible not to feel a twinge of sympathy for each of them at different moments.
Alan Strachan directs with confidence, keeping the pace fast and peppering the scenes with lots of comic business, while Michael Pavelka's three kitchen sets are works of art.
The voice of an off-stage Benny Hill may remind us this is the early '70s, but thankfully the humour hasn't dated one jot. Easily Ayckbourn's best.
* The next production at the Churchill Theatre is Sleeping Beauty from December 4. Tickets: 0844 871 7620.
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