Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Three into one is just absurd

Absurd Person Singular

Highbury Theatre Centre


ALAN Ayckbourn is perhaps, just for aggregate play volume alone, the master of collecting the class traits of the British Character and dropping them into a pool of seemingly everyday situations that effectively result in ever widening ripples of chaos.

Absurd Person Singular is perhaps the most cartoon like of them all and represents what seemed to be a trend in in the mid-seventies for surreal situation comedy. The play was first staged in 1974 and then with the likes of Fawlty Towers appearing in 1975, it all marked a fashionable era of examining the collapse of social differences in Britain through comedy.

Ayckbourn here decides to depict the landscape of social change through the eyes of three couples who meet up for drinks on Christmas Eve over three consecutive years.

The fact all of these relationships are defined by the state of their kitchens, which is where each of the respective three acts take place, is again an attempt to reflect the state of their personal situations.

First we have Jane and Sidney played by Louise Famer and Richard Cogzell set in their pristine white complete with all-mod-cons kitchen on the first Christmas eve. The pair made a very convincing couple nervously awaiting the arrival of their guests as Sidney has plans to property develop and the so the evening is not all about socialising.

First to arrive there is Ronald and Marion played by David Weller and Denise Phillips. Ronald is a typical fastidious bank manager. His wife Marion, the socialite, pokes fun at their host’s ambitions with an air of snobbery through an ever full glass of gin. In act three we find them in their Kitchen which is a cold and miserly place.

Finally we have Eva and Geoffrey played by Izzy Richards and Mark Mulkeen. Eva is an odd bod Bohemian free spirit and Geoffrey the struggling Architect who has more designs for the women than he does for his clients’ projects. Their kitchen is the setting for the second act and is messy, dirty and broken down.

The play though has massive inconsistencies in the character’s development and the fact that a year passes between each act makes it hard to grasp how each of their fates have been arrived at. Eva is probably the most difficult to understand as in the first act she is a glamorous strange individual dependent on medication. In the next year she is a mute wreck attempting multiple suicides over the news her husbands is leaving. Then in the third year, she is still with him and more of a normal, if not bitter wife but a supportive friend of Marion who has been slowly descending into bedridden alcoholism.

It is these character swings, that while they add to the comedy, make it difficult for the cast to gain any complete purchase on their character in a way that effectively describes either their rise or fall in the social standing across the years. Thankfully what is lost in emotional detail was rescued with the humour and the absurd visual chaos that ends every act had the audience laughing out loud.

Absurd is a seasonal favourite with its Christmas theme and this production, skilfully directed by Rob Philips, is great fun in reflecting the intensity of season. However as we all know; as the family sprit and tension increases in many a household at that time of the year, don’t be surprised if the absurdity you see on stage is possibly nothing compared to your own experience. To 14-02-15.

Jeff Grant


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