ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR, Alan Ayckbourn
Runs 2h 35m. One interval
to 28 May 2011
Review: Ian Spiby, Wednesday 11 May
Perfect direction, perfect design, perfect performances.
Some people would say, and I am one of them, that there can be few pleasures more enjoyable than seeing a play by a master playwright, perfectly directed, perfectly designed and perfectly performed. And that was a pleasure that I was privileged to enjoy with Paul Kerryson’s production at the Curve.
Absurd Person Singular, which has grown in stature since its first performance almost 40 years ago, is now regarded as possibly Ayckbourn’s masterpiece, remarkably using the structure and techniques of farce to convey a vision of the basic unhappiness of the human condition and the despair that underlies many of its relationships. It is exquisitely crafted and needs a director of the highest calibre to expose the subtleties of its texture while the actors need not only to be technically adept but to be able to follow through (and reveal to the audience) the complexities of the characters’ thought processes and emotional states. Add to that a designer who reflects in her design not only the milieu of the play but its changing moods – and what do you get? A theatrical experience as good as anything you’re likely to see anywhere this year.
Juliet Shillingford’s superb design sets the play firmly in the early 1970s with a predominance of those then fashionable colours: purple and orange while the actual period is firmly set by voice-overs of Margaret Thatcher to introduce each scene.
Paul Kerryson’s expert direction not only gauges the emotional temperature moment by moment but also each level of speed as well as (remarkably) the shifting statuses that occur among the characters throughout the play.
And then the performers! Scene by scene, beat by beat I watched them change and grow and dwindle before my eyes. I could swear for instance, that Geoffrey (Jason Thorpe) actually lost weight over the two and a half hours that I watched him. And a magic moment (one among dozens performed by all the cast) was watching Sidney (Joseph Alessi) soaked and in a huff, gradually change, until drawn in to join the singing of the Twelve Days of Christmas
And were there any negatives? Try as I might I can only find one – and you’ll see how far I’m scraping the barrel here. Stage Management didn’t QUITE get the wrapping of the Mother’s Pride loaf right. Nearly, but not quite.
Get over to the Curve and see this play!!
Cast: Jane Hopcroft: Leigh McDonald
Sidney Hopcroft: Joseph Alessi
Ronald Brewster-Wright: Sion Tudor Owen
Marion Brewster-Wright: Louise Plowright
Eva Jackson: Tracy-Ann Oberman,
Geoffrey Jackson: Jason Thorpe.
Director: Paul Kerryson, Designer: Juliet Shillingford, Lighting Designer: Mark Howland, Composer and Sound Designer: Jack C Arnold, Company Stage Manager: Brad Fitt, Deputy Stage Manager: Katie Browning, Assistant Stage Manager: Matthew Runham, Casting Assistant: Juliette Stark, Rehearsal and Production Photography: Keith Pattisson