Absurd Person Singular, Rugby Theatre, Sept 14 to 21.
Christmas comes early to Rugby Theatre with this revival of Ayckbourn’s 1972 tragi-comedy. And three couples, three kitchens, and three Christmases. make for a diverting evening’s entertainment.
As expected, the sets and costumes are spot on. The beige and brown palette of seventies décor complements the tank tops and leather jackets of the male characters. The women crackle in polyester jump suits and maxis, pulsating with paisley. The crew cleverly produce three completely different kitchen interiors via two intervals.
The casting of each household gives a sense of where they stand in the pecking order, at least to begin with. Aspirant Sydney, played by Robert Warner and his put-upon wife, Jane (Cheryl Ryan) “know their place”.
Up the chain a little, philandering architect Geoff, is strongly played by Lloyd Richards. His wife Eva (Nicky Main), equally excellent, shows great comic timing in the second act, despite her harrowing circumstances. The third couple, local bank manager Ronald (Steve Crump) and lush wife, Marian (Wendy Sale) undergo the biggest changes across the three seasons. There are echoes of a Christmas Carol in the temporal structure but, unlike Scrooge, there is no arc of redemption for anyone.
Of course the writing shows its age. This being the seventies, the women are housewives left to clean, drink or take anti-depressants. Addressing the casual sit-com sexism, mansplaining and dismissive references to wife beating, director Mark Tolchard says, “Good comedy always stands the test of time, and if you’ve never seen an Ayckbourn play, this is the one to watch. It pulls on all of your emotions.”
This emotional gamut includes some classic farce moments. Doors frantically open and shut, with “noises off” from an unseen huge dog. The audience enjoyed some big laughs punctually delivered by the ensemble. Others arrive more subtly, like the apartheid washing machine “with separate coloureds”. The show has taken 47 years to get here - do give it a welcome.
For tickets call 01788 541234, or go to: www.rugbytheatre.co.uk
Pictured: Cheryl Ryan, Robert Warner, Steve Crump and Wendy Sale on stage.