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Absurd Person Singular, Reviewed by Paul Brooks

To those of us ‘of a certain age’, the three sets on Repertory’s stage looked all too familiar. Those kitchens from the 1970s, overheated havens of fluorescent colours and lurid wallpapers seared into our brains to create permanent nightmarish memories—and there they were again! One in particular recreated in bright yellow, orange and topof-the-line formica, it was like stepping back to an era of Cold Duck, Montana Pearl and shrimp cocktails. The realism was testament to the accuracy of the vision and the work of the set builders.

Absurd Person Singular is set in three different kitchens on three successive Christmas Eves. Three couples — Sidney and Jane Hopcroft (Patrick O’Connor and Linda Kerfoot), Ronald and Marion Brewster-Wright (Stuart Perry and Kerry O’Sullivan) and Geoffrey and Eva Jackson (Mike Pyefinch and Karen Ellett) — host each other, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not, on each Christmas Eve, giving the audience an insight into their changing fortunes and circumstances. The kitchen, of course, is where the real, uncensored action takes place while the parties are staged in the lounge (or ‘sitting room’) which is off-stage. In the kitchen, confessions are blurted out, observations made without thought of consequences and people are very much themselves, stripped of any ‘party facade’.

This excellent cast took Alan Ayckbourn’s superb script and gave it personality. Their characters were real enough for the audience to empathise, sympathise or dislike, within moments of their first lines onstage. They were believable in their ’70s clothes and attitudes and their relationships with each other.

Of course, there were their ‘kitchen’ relationships as opposed to their ‘sitting room’ relationships, attitudes that continue today in the social climbing set. Each character is very different, giving the audience lots of variety and, no doubt, their favourites. The laughs were situation – or character-based, seldom forced and never contrived. Audience reaction throughout was favourable and one hopes the players were able to feel that. Technically too, the actors delivered everything nicely. Diction, movement and facial expressions were real and well-directed, although we’re used to seeing good performances from this veteran cast. The small theatre allows a certain intimacy with the audience and we don’t have to put up with actors yelling their lines to be heard—always a turn-off in a big theatre and one that ruins any illusion of realism.

The cast chatted away as if in a kitchen, which, in fact, they were, and we happened to be nearby, eavesdropping. Realistic sound effects gave us a clear idea of what was happening in the rest of the house or outside, including a funny scene with a misbehaving dog.

Presented in three acts (with refreshments available between Acts 1 and 2) Absurd Person Singular is a well-crafted, well directed and well-acted play. Scenes were changed quietly and with a minimum of fuss and each set looked real enough to cook a meal in. Marie and I enjoyed ourselves and we’re pretty sure the rest of the audience did too. I recommend this play without reservation. Absurd Person Singular runs until this Saturday — see it!