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Theatre Review: Absurd Person Singular

Joy Watters reviews 'Alan Ayckbourn’s hilarious and insightful social commentary of the 1970s'.

Ah, the waves of nostalgia that flow from Alan Ayckbourn’s hilarious and insightful social commentary of the 1970s. Not just the appearance of unlamented party snack, the cheese football, but the beautifully observed spirit of the times. It is the sequel to John Cleese’s 60s sketch, I Look Down On Him, showing suburban class war a decade later as the status quo is destroyed.

Three couples on three successive Christmas Eves are shown in their kitchens attempting to host festive parties. Richard Baron’s production hits all the targets with a strong sextet of actors on their game.

There are the Hopcrofts (Serena Giacomini and Alex Scott Fairley), she galloping round the kitchen like a Shetland pony cleaning maniacally while her nasty small businessman husband lords it over her.

Up the social scale are the Jacksons a philandering architect (Alan Mirren suitably smug and heartless) and his depressed wife sinking lower all the time. The second act is devoted to her trying to top herself in the kitchen while the others are so wrapped up in themselves they do not notice. Helen Mallon’s wordless attempts at suicide are hilariously awful.

Then there are the posh Brewster-Wrights, banker Ronald and his alcoholic wife Marion (Margaret Preece), a mistress of the condescending. Dougal Lee’s absent-minded husband is quietly sure of his status.

However, over time, it is the repellent Sidney Hopcraft who rises to the top, getting the others to dance to his tune.

Absurd Person Singular is also a lament for collapsing marriages as the unhappy women seek solace in cleaning, booze and the ultimate solution.

Ken Harrison’s design sings the 70s, showing the clothes and furnishings across the classes.

Runs in repertoire until October 12.

Tags: theatre

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