“Alan Ayckbourn has compared the business of combining comedy and tragedy in his writing to dancing on the edge of a razor blade. The delicate balance required is particularly prevalent in Absurd Person Singular, its plot allowing for the potential of descent into inappropriate broad farce. Michael Cabot’s direction avoids that in this perfectly pitched and paced production of Ayckbourn’s 1972 piece. Focusing on three couples, the play tells of their fortunes over three successive Christmases in evenings spent in each of their households. Ayckbourn provides us with an acute snapshot of the aspirations, foibles and attitudes of the middle classes in the 1970s. It would be churlish to single out one performance. Although each character represents a particular type, the playing of them is never caricatured. The underlying angst and feeling of pots on the oven about to boil over is well conveyed by all. This beautifully observed production is an appropriate celebration of London Classic Theatre’s twentieth year.”
Chris Hughes - North West End ★★★★

"Cocktail parties, social climbing and garish orange and green kitchens - the images flood back at the Devonshire Park Theatre this week, where London Classic Theatre re-create Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular. Timeless comedy, or locked in a 1970s time-cell? Universal observation of human nature, or stereotypes? Alan Ayckbourn remains our finest living playwright, certainly our most prolific, and any scepticism is close to heresy. There is a middle ground, though. This new revival from London Classic Theatre is faithful to the original, and the observation is sharp and amusing. The settings, characters and relationships are well remembered, and the acting is impeccable. That orange and green kitchen absolutely shouts at the audience - although thankfully only for Act One of what is effectively a three-acter. The action, on three successive Christmas Eves, moves from home to home of the three couples, as their fabric of normality frays ever more destructively at the edges. Simon Scullion’s design is technically excellent and highly effective, with swivelling reversible doors and panels transforming the set from one kitchen to the next. Sidney Hopcraft, ambitious small businessman, is entertaining his bank manager and a high-performing architect – all three with their spouses, of course. Paul Sandys’ Sidney Hopcroft recovers from a disastrous night – largely sabotaged by neurotic wife Jane (the excellent Felicity Houlbrooke) - to climb that social ladder. By Act Two, social veneers are cracking: John Dorney’s womanising chauvinist Geoffrey Jackson is on the point of divorce and his wife Eva - a brilliant, alarmingly fragile Helen Keeley - is on the point of suicide. The comedy is at its blackest and there is real tension. And then the denouement: a year on, Eva has recovered admirably but the third couple are gently crumbling. It is the turn of hapless bank manager Ronald Brewster-Wright and his sozzled spouse Marion (Graham O’Mara and Rosanna Miles) to implode, while the Hopcrofts pull the strings like puppet-masters. Splendid farce, with creasingly funny moments, and just a bit larger than life."
Kevin Anderson - Eastbourne Herald

Absurd Person Singular

Playwright: Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Michael Cabot
Designed by Simon Scullion
Lighting by Andy Grange
Costume Designer: Kate Lyons
Costume Supervisor: Ester Mangas Fernandez
Production Managers: Jenny Wheeler & Andy Grange
Photography: Sheila Burnett

CAST: Paul Sandys, Felicity Houlbrooke, Helen Keeley, John Dorney, Graham O’Mara, Rosanna Miles.

Theatre Royal Bath, Oldham Coliseum, Cambridge Arts Theatre, New Vic Newcastle-under-Lyme, Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne, Theatre Royal Winchester, Derby Theatre, Theatr Clwyd, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.

Sidney Hopcroft, a small-time tradesman, persuades wife Jane to throw a Christmas party hoping to find favour with a bank manager and local architect. As the celebrations get under way, class differences and naked ambition combine to hilarious effect as, one by one, the characters seek refuge in Jane’s kitchen.

Over the next two years, the Jacksons and Brewster-Wrights take turns to host festivities. But Sidney’s star is on the rise and roles are increasingly reversed as the cracks in the other couples’ marriages begin to show.

Alan Ayckbourn’s masterpiece of social climbing in 1970s suburbia fuses a potent mix of farce and black comedy to devastating effect.

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