Absurd Person Singular

Comedy by Alan Ayckbourn. 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.

1973: Original West End London Production

1990: 1st West End London Revival

2007: 2nd West End London Revival

Alan Ayckbourn's West End plays include Absent Friends, The Norman Conquests, Communicating Doors, Woman in Mind, Damsels in Distress Trilogy: RolePlay, FlatSpin, and GamePlan, How The Other Half Loves, Relatively Speaking, A Chorus of Disapproval, Bedroom Farce, 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?

1973: Original West End London Production

Opened 4 July 1973 (no previews), Closed 28 September 1974 at the Criterion Theatre
Transferred 30 September 1974, Closed 1 November 1975 at the Vaudeville Theatre

The original cast from Wednesday 4 July 1973 to Saturday 30 March 1974 featured Michael Aldridge as 'Ronald Brewster-Wright', Sheila Hancock as 'Marion Brewster-Wright', Richard Briers as 'Sidney Hopcroft', Bridget Turner as 'Jane Hopcroft', David Burke as 'Geoffrey Jackson', and Anna Calder-Marshall as 'Eva Jackson'.

The second cast from Monday 1 April 1974 to Saturday 18 January 1975 featured Paul Eddington as 'Ronald Brewster-Wright', Fenella Fielding as 'Marion Brewster-Wright', Peter Blythe as 'Sidney Hopcroft', Angela Scoular as 'Jane Hopcroft', Paul Shelley as 'Geoffrey Jackson', and Marty Cruickshank as 'Eva Jackson'.

The third cast from Monday 20 January 1975 to Saturday 1 November 1975 featured Paul Eddington as 'Ronald Brewster-Wright', Amanda Barrie as 'Marion Brewster-Wright', John Clive as 'Sidney Hopcroft', Millicent Martin as 'Jane Hopcroft' (up to Saturday 27 September 1975), Barbara Morton as 'Jane Hopcroft' (from Monday 29 September 1975), David Baron as 'Geoffrey Jackson', and Stephanie Turner as 'Eva Jackson'.

Directed by Eric Thompson, with designs by Alan Tagg, and lighting by Mick Hughes.

Prior to London's West End this production embarked on a short three-week tour - Brighton Theatre Royal from Monday 11 June to Saturday 23 June 1973; and Croydon Ashcroft Theatre from Monday 25 June to Saturday 30 June 1973 - with the same cast as London.

1990: 1st West End London Revival

Previewed 8 May 1990, Opened 15 May 1990, Closed 16 March 1991 at the Whitehall Theatre (now Trafalgar Theatre)

The cast featured Donald Douglas as 'Ronald Brewster-Wright', Moira Redmond as 'Marion Brewster-Wright', Richard Kane as 'Sidney Hopcroft', Lavinia Bertram as 'Jane Hopcroft', Jeff Shankley as 'Geoffrey Jackson', and Jennifer Wiltsie as 'Eva Jackson'.

Directed by Alan Ayckbourn, with designs by Michael Holt, and lighting by Francis Stevenson.

This production was originally staged at the Scarborough Stephen Joseph Theatre from 20 December 1989 to 27 January 1990, followed by a six-week six-venue tour from Monday 5 February 1990 to Saturday 17 March 1990 (Crewe Lyceum Theatre, Poole Townsgate Theatre, Harlow Playhouse, Swindon Wyvern Theatre, Cambridge Arts Theatre, and Bracknell Wilde Theatre) with the same cast as London's West End with the exception of Lesley Meade as 'Jane Hopcroft' and Robin McCaffrey as 'Eva Jackson'.

The production then embarked on a pre-West End five-week tour - Hayes Beck Theatre from Tuesday 3 April to Saturday 7 April 1990; Northampton Derngate from Monday 9 April to Saturday 14 April 1990; Wimbledon Theatre from Monday 16 April to Saturday 21 April 1990; and Guildford Yvonne Arnaud from Monday 23 April 1990 to 5 May 1990 - with the same cast as at the West End's Whitehall Theatre.

2007: 2nd West End London Revival

Previewed 27 November 2007, Opened 11 December 2007, Closed 22 March 2008 at the Garrick Theatre

A major revival of Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Absurd Person Singular in London starring Jane Horrocks, Jenny Seagrove and John Gordon Sinclair

The cast featured David Horovitch as 'Ronald Brewster-Wright', Jenny Seagrove as 'Marion Brewster-Wright', David Bamber as 'Sidney Hopcroft', Jane Horrocks as 'Jane Hopcroft', John Gordon Sinclair as 'Geoffrey Jackson', and Lia Williams as 'Eva Jackson'.

Directed by Alan Strachan, with sets by Michael Pavelka, costumes by Brigid Guy, lighting by Jason Taylor, and sound by Ian Horrocks-Taylor.

John Gordon Sinclair's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Martin' in Stephen Poliakoff's production of his play Sweet Panic at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2003; 'Georg Nowack' in Scott Ellis' revival of the Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick musical She Loves Me at the Savoy Theatre in 1994; and 'Peter' and 'Nick' in Simon Gray's production of his comedy The Common Pursuit at the Phoenix Theatre in 1988.

David Horovitch's London theatre credits include the roles of 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh' in Phyllida Lloyd's revival of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart at the Donmar Warehouse, and transfer to the West End's Apollo Theatre in 2005; 'Tony' in Robin Lefevre's production of Simon Mendes da Costa's Losing Louis at the Hampstead Theatre, and transfer to the West End's Trafalgar Studios in 2005; 'Prince Philip' in Max Stafford-Clark's production of Sue Townsend's The Queen and I at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1994; 'John Worthing' in Jonathan Miller's revival of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Greenwich Theatre in 1975; and 'Gerald Croft' in Bernard Miles's revival of J B Priestley's An Inspector Calls at the Mermaid Theatre in 1973.

This production transferred to London's West End following a two-week season at the Windsor Theatre from Tuesday 30 October to Saturday 10 November 2007, with the same cast.

"As with quite a few of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, Absurd Person Singular feels like an attempt to force wider-ramifications on a plot device. The playwright's tendency to tell you one thing at a time about his characters isn't helped by some shamelessly overripe acting in Alan Strachan's production. Jenny Seagrove as alcoholic Marion is a bit of a revelation in the first act, though she resumes her customary wooden style soon enough, finding it difficult to let a flicker of expression through. Act two sees a magnificently out-to-lunch Eva (Lia Williams) attempt suicide via sleeping pills and kitchen knives while everyone around her remains oblivious to her despair. Williams is funny but this creaky comedy of acute embarrassment and misery is unmistakably for masochists." The London Metro

"In Act One a wonderfully driven Jane Horrocks, as Jane Hopcroft, scrubs around her kitchen with manic zeal, so house-proud that you wonder her fingers do not peel. The excellent David Bamber, as her arriviste husband Sidney, gives a stunning performance of a man driven by panic - a frenzied concern that his social efforts will not meet the approval of those he aspires to impress. Into this delicious chaos enters the wonderful Jenny Seagrove as snobbish Marion, wife of Sidney's boring bank manager, Ronald - a clever well-observed performance by David Horovitch. Seagrove holds the Act together with a performance of such brilliant hauteur that you feel like booing her. And there are some hilarious lines that she delivers in a magnificently grand voice... Lia Williams, who barely says a word, brings a chaotic and often hilarious pathos to the sadness of depression and attempted suicide. Her comic timing is outstanding, as if she was born to play farce, and her ability to convey humorous tragedy with one glance is memorable... Director Alan Strachan gives the play a cracking pace and it is a joy to see such polished actors at work." The Daily Express

"Alan Strachan has brought together an impressive cast... On the whole they do not disappoint. David Bamber, so often guilty of grotesque overacting, puts in a near-definitive performance as the cringing joker who hides a cowardly domestic Hitler within. Jane Horrocks brings a steeliness to his downtrodden wife; Lia Williams effortlessly negotiates Eva's journey from dizzy depressive to resourceful businesswoman; Jenny Seagrove brings a magnificence to Marion's gin-soaked dissolution; while David Horovitch makes all the right noises as the bumbling old stick... 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 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

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.

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.