Absent Friends Reveal Laughter and Tears
Thame Players are putting on a new production of Absent Friends, one of the most revealing comedies written by Sir Alan Ayckbourn, the award-winning playwright. First performed in 1974, and inspired by an event in Ayckbourn’s own life, when he attended a tea party for a woman whose husband had died during their honeymoon, Absent Friends is a work of ‘ruthless simplicity’, driven entirely by the actions of six people in a living room.
The play takes place in the home of Diana and Paul, old friends of the recently bereaved Colin. Diana decides to hold a tea party, gathering together with old friends John and Evelyn, Gordon and Marge, to cheer Colin up. But there are deep problems, involving suspected extra-marital relationships, of which Colin, the ‘absent friend’, is mostly unaware. Just as matters threaten to erupt between these friends, Colin arrives and everyone awkwardly tries to be nice to him, while attempting to get on with each other. Despite his loss, Colin is blissfully happy in the memory of the time he spent with his fiancée. As he leafs through the photograph albums he has brought with him and rhapsodises over his dead fiancée, the fault lines in his friends’ lives open up like chasms. His apparent satisfaction with his own life highlights the depths to which his friends have sunk, and his attempts to sort out their problems merely creates further rifts in the others’ relationships.
The action moves from clever humour to excruciating embarrassment in an instant and, as the critic Harold Hobson noted,
‘If it is the saddest and most moving thing Ayckbourn has written, it is also the most clear-sighted and the funniest’.
Brian Holt, directing for Thame Players, said,
‘We’re delighted to be performing one of the best plays by the most prolific dramatist of our times. Absent Friends superbly demonstrates Ayckbourn’s craftsmanship and acute social observation, with laughter and tears in equal measure.’
Parts of this review are copyright: Simon Murgatroyd, reproduced with permission from www.alanayckbourn.net.
- Absent Friends is being performed at The Players Theatre, Nelson Street, Thame 0X9 2DP from Tuesday 9th to Saturday 13th May inclusive. All performances start at 7.45pm.
- Tickets cost £9 and £8 (concessions) , and are obtainable from Spear Travels, Greyhound Walk, Thame, tel: 01844 217228 or online from thameplayers.co.uk
- For more information about Thame Players, please contact Tony Long on 07938 857291 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.