Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Review • ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR • Garrick Theatre • 2007

Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn

absurdpersonIt is 35 years since this play was originally presented and, like many of Ayckbourn’s successful plays, has had numerous productions. In all that time, however, I have never seen it in the theatre.

Does it work? I’m not sure, is my answer, but certainly not in this production. Has it dated? Probably, but only in that it is free of any contemporary references and the sets do not suggest the kitchens that today’s upwardly mobile middle classes aspire to. The characters are certainly recognisable types, as they must have been more than three decades ago. Ayckbourn is pointing his finger at our blinkered self-centredness and inability to see the world outside. Of course, most of his middle class theatregoers won’t recognise themselves, though they will claim to recognise the weaknesses and foibles of his characters as just like those of their friends and acquaintances.

The play, like some of his others, does not fit easily into a clear genre. It moves from comedy to farce to social satire and it is not easy to find a way of making them all fit together. The commercial success of his comedies has made people believe they are foolproof, but this is not the only production to have shown that to be fallacious. His script actually tells us very little about the individual characters. He leaves a lot for the actor to fill in, and that input from the performers is missing here.

The play opens with an unsophisticated couple about to entertain their bank manager and his wife, hoping to ensure they get a loan for their business. The husband is frantically anxious and the wife a house-proud cleaning freak, but David Bamber and Jane Horrocks play them in such an exaggerated fashion that you can’t believe in them except as caricatures. It is an escalating series of maladroit mishaps – but to make farce work you need first to establish a believable normality. Only then can you throw in an unlikely coincidence or situation. In this production the director pitches us straight into cartoon characterisation. There is nowhere for these performances to go in responding to more manic situations. Fortunately, Jenny Seagrove’s rather grander lady arriving with her bank manager husband is all pretence as a character, which enables her to up the style a notch in the playing.

The second act, in the kitchen of a wife constantly interrupted (and ignored) in her attempts to kill herself, is almost pure farce, but instead of the characters being taken by surprise by the escalation of events, it feels as though they are conniving in contriving them.

The third act, in the bank manager’s kitchen, is more sombre. There has been a downturn in his life and that of the couple closest to them as friends. The more common pair, on the other hand, have had good fortune. Now it is they who are brimming with confidence and in control. Horrocks reflects this in her performance. Bamber is even more frantic. Don’t get me wrong. Much of this is still funny. I laughed a few times and many in the audience were clearly very amused. But surely there is more to it than this.

In a long speech about his marriages David Horovitch as the bank manager tops a performance that is more consistently believable than his fellows: a beautifully handled scene. He makes me think of Ralph Richardson with the same suggestion of another world around him. He suggests a deeper subtext which needs bringing out elsewhere. Maybe, taken more seriously – deadly seriously – this play could be a rather disturbing hoot. As it is, I wondered why they had bothered to revive it. The paying public may not have my reservations and prove me very wrong.

Howard Loxton © 2007

Originally published on R&V 13-12-07

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

A WordPress.com blog

When Women Inspire

Spotlighting inspirational women and how you can make a positive impact too

Dear Kitty. Some blog

On animals, peace and war, science, social justice, women's issues, arts, and much more

Blue Biro Gallery

Paintings by Jenny Caron Hall

lucinda E Clarke

My blog - My books - and other interesting stuff about my adventures

The Recipe Hunter

Cook and Enjoy

Travel with Intent

A photographer's view of the world - words and images to inspire your travels and your dreams

restlessjo

Roaming, at home and abroad

Shalden & Neatham sister site to the Reluctant Janeite

Jane Austen, her letters & other literary digressions

stewilko's Blog

A place for my thoughts

Her Diffident Way

The only way I know

WordsVisual

Mostly photographs with some words by this arty scientist...

thedullwoodexperiment

Viewing movies in a different light

Mandy Bangerter

Textile Artist and Teacher

artbymandy

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Boho.Blog

Bohemian Stuff

juniordoctorblog.com

pulseless electrical activity.

The Observation Post

mistermuse, half-poet and half-wit

Wild Star Landing

Poetry, Facts, Fiction, Inspired by Travel, Art, Science, Nature & Philosophy

Turtle Bunbury

Historian * Author * Presenter * Speaker * Guide

Fierce Writing

Not so much Rage Against the Machine as Slightly Peeved the Taps Won't Work

Victorian Footnotes

Bringing back the forgotten

Etan Smallman

Freelance journalist

Michael Ehrhardt

Permanenter Ausstellungsraum

jessicanorrie

Writing about writing; words about the world

It's all in the Past!

Writing about current events from a historical perspective.

Mrinalini Raj

I LEAVE YOUR ROAD TO WALK ON MY GRASS.

History Quirks

The Casual Past

vintageinkstand

Words and images from the past

janiceduke.wordpress.com/

The adventures of Janice Duke and her Magical Travelling Paint Box

Life is sweet with Caz GREENHAM

Creator and Author of The Adventures of Eric Seagull 'Storyteller' 3-book-series. Set in picturesque Brixham Bay!

Movies From The Silent Era

A repository for movies from the silent era

Art Universal

Art as a Sensory

Henry Brooke

Musings, Memories and Miscellanea

Matthew Toffolo's Summary

Daily summary of the life/movie world.

When Angels Fly

Author site of S. Jackson & A. Raymond

off the leash

History, technology, books and baseball.

FLOW ART STATION

THE CONTEMPORARY ART MAGAZINE

Writer Site

Memoir, poetry, & writing theory

hungryfaces

faces gourmet world of fashion, design and art

From guestwriters

Lifestyle magazine and Readers Digest

The Vintage Toy Advertiser

Suffering ink-stained fingers and occasional staple wounds to bring you wonderful images of late 20th century advertising and paperworks

%d bloggers like this: