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Ayckbourn's Christmas cracker proves to be mixed bag for Players

PUBLISHED: 11:56 06 November 2008 | UPDATED: 17:16 16 August 2010

ALAN Ayckbourn s comedy triptych Absurd Person Singular was performed recently by Eltham s Priory Players, and served as a good demonstration of the strengths and weaknesses of amateur theatre, writes Mark Campbell. The play takes place in three kitchens

ALAN Ayckbourn's comedy triptych Absurd Person Singular was performed recently by Eltham's Priory Players, and served as a good demonstration of the strengths and weaknesses of amateur theatre, writes Mark Campbell.

The play takes place in three kitchens on three consecutive Christmas Eves.

As with much of the playwright's extensive output, it concerns itself with the petty grievances of the middle classes and has a cast of characters who reflect this: flirty alcoholic, depressed housewife, socially inept bore, etc.

A play of this kind demands a certain extravagance of performances, and this was certainly forthcoming in Margaret Pace as the booze-loving Marion. Equally strong was John Wood as the boorish architect Geoffrey.

Andrew Pace was perhaps a little lacking as the lower class interloper Sidney, although Christine Ward gave a lovely fussy turn as his wife Jane.

Val Youngman was excellent as the blustering old businessman Ronald, although he inexplicably sported an earring throughout, which was quite out of keeping with both his character and the period (1970s).

It's this sort of inattention to detail that can spoil an amateur show, and unfortunately it extended to the play's set.

Although the fixtures and fittings were changed for each act, the walls of the kitchen were left permanently blank.

No pictures, utensils, calendar, notice board, nothing to distract the eye from the featureless expanse of flattage at the back of the stage.

Of the three acts, the middle one is easily Ayckbourn's best, and it certainly proved to be the funniest of the evening.

A self-contained black comedy, it has the depressive Eva (an excellent performance by Kath Lynch) attempt various forms of suicide while all her friends ignore her.

It culminates in Ronald's electrocution by a light socket after Eva has tried doing the same to herself (everyone thinks she's trying to change the bulb).

The sight of Val Youngman's brigaderish Ronald shaking with electrical current was hilarious, and the whole sequence fizzed with humour from start to finish.

In contrast, the final act seemed superfluous, only really picking up with Sidney's 'victory' over his friends - by literally calling the tune.

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