An old friend showing her age

Absent Friends

Malvern Theatres


WATCHING Absent Friends is almost like being suspended in a time capsule.

Playwright Alan Ayckbourn wrote this tale in 1974 and along with the wonderfully kitsch seventies decor, the situational comedy dates itself firmly in that period too.

It's a gentle piece of theatre with occasional waves of brief farce, Evelyn and Johnwhich unfortunately also dip into periods of tedium.

Revolving around a group of friends, the story sees them preparing to hold a tea party for a childhood mate, Colin, who has recently lost his fiancé in a drowning accident.

There's plenty of disharmony between the married couples and the audience is gradually exposed to each of their troubles, which ties in with the fact Ayckbourn wrote this play around the time his own marriage came to an end.

Kathryn Ritchie as Evelyn, John Dorney as John

As the play moves on, the irony emerges that grieving Colin is far more optimistic than any of his married friends.

Despite the some-what slow story, the characterisation is wonderful and I found myself growing fond of each and every one of this motley crew.

That was helped by some fine acting from the small cast. Susie Emmett, in particular, was a refreshingly funny Marge, constantly putting her foot in her mouth, while John Dorney also deserves a nod for his exertions as fidgety John.

Ayckbourn has spent over half a century writing 79 plays, sadly this is one of his more dated pieces and far from his best. To Saturday, 22,August.

Alison Brinkworth



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