Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn

Banbury Cross Players

21st October – 24th October 2015

The Mill, Banbury.



Banbury Cross Players chose Alan Ackbourn’s classic comedy, Absurd Person Singular, directed by Brenda Williams, for the opening production for their 2015/2016 season.

An old favourite with both amateur and professional groups, the play is set in three kitchens, in three Acts, on three consecutive Christmas Eves in the 1970’s. (There was no mention of the decade in the Programme but you guessed due to the gaudy household fabrics and the flared trousers).

There is only a small plotline in this play that opens in the kitchen of Sidney & Jane Hopcroft. Jane clearly suffers from OCD as she cleans and polishes whilst Sidney awaits the arrival of his visitors, Sidney is played by BCP stalwart Philip King who put in a worthy performance as the hapless Sidney bent on impressing his upmarket guests who are calling in for a Christmas noggin. Looking like a cross between a young Bruce Forsythe and one of the Chuckle Brothers, Philip drove the pace of the piece as he coped with his introvert wife who clearly is out of her depth on the social front. .

Helen Williams credibly played Jane who obviously would rather be cleaning her or (as in the second act) someone else’s oven rather than involve herself in party talk.

The yuletide drinkers arrive in the form of Geoffrey & Eva Jackson. He an architect anxious to improve his lot with the local developers, she a pill-popping housewife who takes countless tablets every three hours day and night. The other guests other than the two we don’t see are the Brewster-Wrights. Ronald’s a Bank Manager and his wife Marion is an upwardly mobile sort who whilst praising Jane’s Kitchen in private hates it and all the Hopcroft’s stand for.

There you have it the scene is set for the interplay over three acts of these six people. Sidney goes from the underdog in Act One to the leader of the pack in Act Three after Geoffrey’s business has all but collapsed as did one of his buildings, and Ronald is losing it due Marion’s excessive drinking.

Jonathan Rubery as Geoffrey played his part well as the philandering husband. Unfortunately his voice, as with Marion, didn’t carry well and many of their lines were lost.

Joanna Firth is Geoffrey’s wife Eva and was all but mute in the whole of the second act except for a few lines at the end but her performance spoke volumes. After being told by her erstwhile hubby he was leaving her Eva tries numerous ways of ending it all, all thwarted by her drinks guests who by now are involved cleaning, repairing lights and avoiding bites from George, the ferocious dog in the hall. I did feel sorry for poor Eva.

Talking of dogs it is clear that each of the three ladies as they host their Christmas Eve party is very much the underdog. OCD Jane in Act One, Eva the case for treatment in Act 2 and in Act 3, Marion who has taken to drink and whose husband isn’t best pleased when Sidney and Jane give Marion a bottle of gin for Christmas.

Marion was well played by Michele Lothian albeit at low volume but Ray Atkinson as her husband could have stepped straight out from the West End. A polished and professional performance if ever I saw one. Clear crisp diction, the full catalogue of emotion as he goes from lofty Bank Manager to suffering electric shock whilst dabbling in DIY.

Most of the cast needed prompts as the night progressed, this was the second night of a four night run, but in fairness the parts were huge and some monologues lengthy.

Now this is where, for me, the piece faltered a tad. The kitchen set, designed and built by Richard Ashby and Andy Sutton, I felt, was a little on the extensive side. This play is a comedy and not a farce so the humour is in the wording and the interaction between the actors. There was a large amount of walking involved due to the size of the stage which not only must have worn the cast out by the end of the evening but lost a little of the intimacy required in some of the scenes and also didn’t help with the poor dialogue volume too. However, I liked the 1970’s details on the stage including the Homepride men. Nice touch.

The sound effects by Mark Neale were excellent with the noise of the rain outside each time the door was opened and the noise of the party guests in the other room when that when that door was opened.

Save for the lack of volume, any criticisms of this production seem a bit picky as Banbury Cross Players score another win with Absurd Person Singular. On the whole it was a splendid and entertaining presentation performed by a talented cast and back stage crew.