Absent Friends

Play by Alan Ayckbourn. When Colin loses his fiancee, his married friends rally round to lend their support. But as the tea starts to pour, it becomes clear that trouble is brewing, as jealousy, infidelity, tension and barely concealed loathing bubble beneath the surface. Maybe Colin is not the one who needs help.

1975: Original West End London Premiere with Richard Briers

2012: 1at West End London Revival with Reece Shearsmith

Alan Ayckbourn's London theatre credits include Damsels in Distress Trilogy: RolePlay, FlatSpin, and GamePlan, Woman in Mind, The Norman Conquests, Relatively Speaking, A Chorus of Disapproval, Bedroom Farce, How The Other Half Loves, Absurd Person Singular, Communicating Doors, and Things We Do for Love. Alan Ayckbourn also provided lyrics to the Andrew Lloyd Webber's P G Wodehouse musical By Jeeves, and Roger Glossop's children's show of Beatrix Potter's Where is Peter Rabbit?

1975: Original West End London Premiere

Opened 23 July 1975 (no previews), Closed 24 April 1976 at the Garrick Theatre

The cast featured Richard Briers as 'Colin', Peter Bowles as 'Paul', Pat Heywood as 'Diana', Ray Brooks as 'John', Cheryl Kennedy as 'Evelyn', and Phyllida Law as 'Marge'.

Directed by Eric Thompson, with designs by Derek Cousins, and lighting by Nick Chelton.

Prior to London's West End this production, with the same cast, embarked on a short three-week regional tour: Brighton Theatre Royal from Monday 30 Jume to Saturday 12 July 1975; and Norwich Theatre Royal from Monday 14 July to Saturday 19 July 1975.

2012: 1st West End London Revival

Previewed 26 January 2012, Opened 9 February 2012, Closed 14 April 2012 at the Harold Pinter Theatre

A major revival of Alan Ayckbourn's play Absent Friends featuring Reece Shearsmith, Kara Tointon and Elizabeth Berrington

The cast featured Reece Shearsmith as 'Colin', Steffan Rhodri as 'Paul', Katherine Parkinson as 'Diana', David Armand as 'John', Kara Tointon as 'Evelyn', and Elizabeth Berrington as 'Marge'.

Directed by Jeremy Herrin, with designs by Tom Scutt, lighting by Peter Mumford, and sound by Ian Dickinson.

Kara Tointon made her West End stage debut last year playing the role of 'Eliza Dolittle' in Pygmalion at the Garrick Theatre.

Elizabeth Berrington's West End stage credits include playing the central role of 'Beverly' in Abigail's Party at the Trafalgar Studios in 2003 and Top Girls at the Aldwych Theatre 2002.

"Death is the ostensible subject of Alan Ayckbournís 1974 seriocomedy; deadening marriages is the real one... Jeremy Herrinís production is made memorable by its attention to period design and to the emotional climate of the 1970s and by two particularly compelling performances. Stony of face and flat of tone, Kara Tointonís gum-snapping, terminally bored and disgruntled Evelyn stamps out any conversational overtures as if she were crushing cigarettes. Gusts of despair blow through Katherine Parkinsonís kindly Diana, whose marital mess gets an airing. Towards the end of the play, she looks as if sheís been coshed by unhappiness." The London Metro

"This is a desperately clear-sighted piece about our awkwardness in talking about death. Even more painful, it's about the death of love... Jeremy Herrin's expertly performed revival establishes the play as a classic period piece in which the emotional truths have not dated one jot. Di has invited the old gang round in order to offer tea and sympathy to Colin, whose fiancee, whom none of them had ever met, has recently drowned in a tragic accident... When Reece Shearsmith's Colin eventually turns up, he is not bereft but beaming, irrepressibly upbeat, his love for his dead fiancee still rapturously alive; the others' relationships are long dead. Chronically smug, he's also deaf and blind to the unhappiness that surrounds him. Lots of comedy arises from people putting a clumsy foot in it. Asked if she likes her tea milky, Marge replies: 'Yes, but don't drown it.' If you don't laugh, it's because you're already crying." The Mail on Sunday

Absent Friends in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 26 January 2012, opened on 9 February 2012, and closed on 14 April 2012.