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Previewed 27 November 2007, Opened 11 December 2007, Closed 22 March 2008 at the Garrick Theatre in London
A major revival of Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Absurd Person Singular in London starring Jane Horrocks, Jenny Seagrove and John Gordon Sinclair and directed by Alan Strachan.
A classic comedy with outrageous characters - Let the festivities begin! - Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Absurd Person Singular follows the fortunes of three couples who turn up in each other's kitchens over three successive Christmase Eve gatherings... It's Christmas-time at the Hopcrofts and the only present they want is to succeed in scaling the social ladder. Havoc ensues at the festive drinks party they hold to impress their high-powered friends - but that's nothing compared to what happens at the next two Christmases when the friends return their hospitality! A classic comedy with outrageous characters - this is Ayckbourn at his best. Set in the early 1970s over three Christmas Eves - last Christmas at Sidney and Jane's, this Christmas at Geoffrey and Eva's and next Christmas at Ronald and Marion's.
The cast for this revival of Absurd Person Singular in London features Jane Horrocks as 'Jane', David Bamber as 'Sidney', Lia Williams as 'Eva', John Gordon Sinclair as 'Geoffrey', Jenny Seagrove as 'Marion' and David Horovitch as 'Ronald'. The production is directed by Alan Strachan with designs by Michael Pavelka, lighting by Jason Taylor, sound by Ian Horrocks-Taylor and costumes by Brigid Guy. John Gordon Sinclair's London theatre credits include the musical She Loves Me at the Savoy Theatre in 1994. David Horovitch's West End credits include Sue Townsend's The Queen and I (Vaudeville Theatre 1994). Alan Ayckbourn's West End plays include Absent Friends, The Norman Conquests, Communicating Doors, Woman in Mind, How The Other Half Loves, Relatively Speaking, A Chorus of Disapproval and Bedroom Farce.
"This cruelly comic, often painfully funny, Seventies play is set on three consecutive Christmas Eves in three suburban households where drinks parties are being held. But Ayckbourn, being Ayckbourn, reveals that the real dramas are happening behind the scenes in the sharply contrasting kitchens. It is here that he charts the shifting power within the middle classes, the rise and rise of the aspirant lower-middles, the misery and muddle of the middle-middles attempting to hang on, and the decline and fall of the uppermiddles, with their inherited wealth and sense of entitlement, increasingly irrelevant in a world of hustlers. During the intervals, most of the audience seemed to play a deliciously viciouslittle game, deciding who their friends most resemble... Like Chekhov's desperate, lonely characters, they talk, but always to themselves, since no one else ever listens. Unlike Chekhov, however, these characters don't develop; their fortunes change, for better or worse, but they themselves remain brilliantly outlined cartoons. Nevertheless, in Alan Strachan's hideously authentic Seventies revival, a crack cast colours them quite splendidly." The Mail on Sunday
"First performed in 1972, Absurd Person Singular is one of the great plays of Alan Ayckbourn's early career. It is a state-of-the-nation play about the economic changes then transforming the British middle classes, hidden within a savagely funny comedy about dire Christmas parties... One of Ayckbourn's recurring gripes about productions of his plays in the West End is that directors allow the actors to play too crudely for laughs. With Alan Strachan in place, there's no risk of this here, and those who come in search of slapstick may wish for a rather lighter hand. There are laughs, yes, but they are more to do with the biting realism of Ayckbourn's dialogue than with pieces of showy comic business. The result is as dark and unredemptive a portrait of the institution of marriage as you'll ever see, which is quite an achievement for a play that is also a piece of dazzling farce." The Sunday Telegraph
"One of Alan Ayckbourn's toughest and funniest plays, this is about English social mobility. It is rather like some great English institutions: incomprehensible to foreigners, unregulated and sacrosanct... The play could have been co-authored by Chekhov and Ray Cooney: it has the melancholy of social decay and the brilliant cruelty of a first-rate farce. Alan Strachan's production is as tight and ruthless as a hangman's rope, and you come out with an irresistibly evil feeling of pleasure. The six actors are wickedly observant: they never mock or patronise their characters, because they know that all great comedies are driven by pain." The Sunday Times
Probably one of the nation's most performed living playwrights, Alan Ayckbourn has written 70 plays, almost all receiving their first performance in Scarborough. Among his successes are plays such as: How the Other Half Loves, The Norman Conquests, Bedroom Farce, Just Between Ourselves, A Chorus of Disapproval, Woman in Mind, A Small Family Business and Comic Potential. More than 25 have been produced in the West End or at the National Theatre since his first hit, Relatively Speaking, opened at the Duke of York's in 1967. Alan Ayckbourn's plays have been translated into some 35 languages, have won numerous national and international awards and are performed on stage and television throughout the world. They have also been filmed in English and French.
The playwright Alan Ayckbourn said regarding his play: "Absurd Person Singular - the title was originally intended for a play I didn't write and subsequently, because I rather cared for it, given to the play I did write - was first produced in Scarborough in 1972. At that time, I remember, I was becoming increasingly fascinated by the dramatic possibilities of offstage action. Not a new device, granted, but one with plenty of comic potential still waiting to be tapped... The offstage character hinted at but never seen can be dramatically as significant and telling as his onstage counterparts... Thus, when I came to write Absurd Person Singular and started by setting the action in Jane and Sidney Hopcroft's sitting room, I was halfway through the act before I realised that I was viewing the evening from totally the wrong perspective. Dick and Lottie were indeed monstrously overwhelming, hearty and ultimately very boring, and far better heard occasionally but not seen. By a simple switch of setting to the kitchen, the problem was all but solved, adding incidentally far greater comic possibilities than the sitting room ever held. For in this particular case, the obvious offstage action was far more relevant than its onstage counterpart. Absurd Person Singular, then, could be described as my first offstage action play. It is also, some critics have observed, a rather weighty comedy. Its last scene darkens considerably. I make no apologies for this."
Absurd Person Singular in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 27 November 2007, opened on 11 December 2007 and closed on 22 March 2008.