Yes, you read that right, it may be June but it’s Christmas Eve at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre!
Absurd Person Singular is one of 81 plays written by the brilliant Tony and Olivier award winning playwright Alan Ayckbourn. This Comic Masterpiece spans 3 years, 3 families and 3 Christmas parties; fusing farce and black comedy to produce a fantastically funny and all too relatable story of social climbing in 1970s suburbia. Under the guise of festivities and the pressure to impress, marital cracks begin to emerge and in a hilarious but thought provoking series of events, one by one the characters seek refuge in the kitchen.
I really didn’t know what to expect from this play but I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how thoroughly entertaining it was from start to finish. Whilst it’s important to remember that this is a piece frozen in time and some scenes wouldn’t necessarily read well in modern day writing, the vast majority of this production remains hilariously relatable. The private bickering, the desperation to impress, the fake smiles and awkward laughs; as a member of the audience you can feel the tensions building and cant help but be swept up into this competitive 70s world.
The set is simple yet effective and transports us through the neighbourhood perfectly well. A few small changes from year to year transform the space from an elaborate 70s wallpapered kitchen to a basic run down flat with a brilliant ease. The lighting compliments the space perfectly and a clever use of sound adds an extra dimension; breathing life into a party that we never actually see. The most astounding thing about this production is Ayckbourn’s ability to ignite your imagination by never giving you a glimpse of the actual party. All we’re given is the chaos that becomes of it but somehow, through skilful writing and impeccable direction by Michael Cabot, you feel as though you were there.
It would be impossible to pull off such an intimate production without such an exceptional cast. They’re small but mighty. Each member of this tiny team completely embodies their role and together they tell the story brilliantly well. We are offered a surprisingly complex insight into each individual character as well as the intricacies of their relationships and when given a glimpse behind the festive facade, it’s not always rosy. Their fantastically hilarious interactions feel completely natural and they pitch the sometimes dark, sometimes slapstick comedy at the perfect level leaving the audience hysterical by the end of the final scene. I wasn’t ready for it to end.
Michael Cabot has breathed new life into this exceptional production of Absurd Person Singular. Ayckbourn’s genius writing and a truly stellar cast have combined to give us 2 and a half hours of uproarious comedy. Although at times an uncomfortable but welcome reminder of how far we have progressed as a society, this sometimes outdated production still represents an uncomfortably relatable intrinsic desire to impress.
Absurd Person Singular is a perfectly measured combination of thought provoking hilarity – A farcical example of social climbing, and falling, in 70’s suburbia that you simply shouldn’t miss.
Absurd Person Singular will be at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre until Saturday 26th June before continuing on its tour across the UK – Next Stop Malvern Theatres, Worcestershire. This comic masterpiece will tour until 16th October 2021. All theatres are strictly following the current UK Government guidance on social distancing.
Production Images by London Classic Theatre
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