Tag Archives: Andy Grange

Absurd Person Singular

Absurd Person Singular


Cambridge Arts Theatre | UK Tour

Absurd Person Singular

Absurd Person Singular

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Reviewed – 7th September 2021



“As the comedy takes a darker turn, Helen Keeley gives the performance of the night”


Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy is fast approaching its fiftieth anniversary and in this touring production by London Classic Theatre, directed by Michael Cabot, it is aging well.

Three acts are set in three different kitchens on three consecutive 1970s Christmas Eves – enigmatically described as last year, this year, and next year – and in Simon Scullion’s clever set design we see the necessary changes in windows, doors, and decor to distinguish the three different households.

The first kitchen we see is in the home of Jane and Sidney Hopcroft. Sidney (Paul Sandys) is an up-and-coming businessman using a party to further his relationship with bank manager Ronald Brewster-Wright (Graham O’Mara) and established architect Geoffrey Jackson (John Dorney). Sidney’s wife Jane (Felicity Houlbrooke) has cleaned their home to a spotless condition but is nervous of doing anything that could be conceived embarrassing. With frantic energy the couple go through their party preparations, their frenzied activity reminiscent of many a TV sitcom.

Ayckbourn is a master of placing central events offstage so that we have a sense of being behind the scenes. Here, the party is in full swing in the living room, behind the kitchen door, so an entrance on stage is an exit from the party. Full marks to Sound Designer Chris Drohan for the convincing snatches of offstage conversation and laughter, and the excellent effect of heavy rain falling in the garden. Courageous direction reinforces this action elsewhere by leaving the stage empty and the audience waiting for something to happen, perhaps on some occasions for too long.

Eventually, all the guests appear in the kitchen – except, amusingly, the lively Dick and Lottie Potter who are only ever talked about and never appear. One laddish conversation between the three men with near-misogynistic attitudes helps us understand an element of Geoffrey’s womanising nature but otherwise, in our age of #MeToo, feels inappropriate rather than comedic.

We are also introduced in this scene to Marion Brewster-Wright (Rosanna Miles) who shows excellent changes in vocal quality from a highly exuberant party voice to a low threatening growl when admonishing her husband; and Eva Jackson (Helen Keeley) who is the first character to hint at something more serious than the shallow party talk of the other two couples.

Act Two moves into the Dorney’s more well-appointed apartment kitchen. As the comedy takes a darker turn, Helen Keeley gives the performance of the night, expressing her inner turmoil and scribbling desperate notes, without speaking a word. Around her, the others continue their antics oblivious to her plight and the company induces our laughter despite Eva’s pain.

The final kitchen is in the home of the Brewster-Wrights, the largest residence of our three couples, but there has clearly been a downturn in their luck and with that of Geoff Dorney whose only hope for future success appears to lie with Sydney. When the Hopcrofts arrive unannounced, we see that it is Sydney alone who has had a successful year, but for the other two couples he will always be the little man.

An Ayckbourn trait is that his stories, snapshots of imagined lives, never really end. And so the curtain falls on the rising Sidney leading the others in a not-so-merry dance. Whilst we laugh.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Sheila Burnett


Absurd Person Singular

Cambridge Arts Theatre until 11th September then UK Tour continues


Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
Copenhagen | ★★★★ | July 2021

Click here to see our most recent reviews


Review of Big Foot – 3.5 Stars


Big Foot

Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Reviewed – 5th October 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2


“Big Foot is a true passion project, breathing new life into theatre…”


Big Foot, and tiny little heart strings, danced its way through elation to grave sadness, whilst maintaining poise, humour and a genuine rapport with the audience. Joseph Barnes Phillips delivers a vibrant, vital and deftly silly performance. Journeying through the fluctuating thoughts and feelings of youth, exploring the importance and difficulty of maintaining your heritage in a relentlessly upgrading world, Big Foot was never heavy-handed, always handling its subject matters with care. Intensified by the fantastic work of the creative team – particular commendation must go to Andy Grange, whose lighting design is second to none – it is clear that Big Foot is a true passion project, breathing new life into theatre and its audiences.


Big Foot is teeming with different dialects, but the mass of tongues never became tangled within Joseph’s single body. The audience was invited to have curry on the way into the auditorium, and a later reference to his mum’s jollof, exchanged for a packet of Walkers crisps, humorously juxtaposed the specificity of origin with globalisation. Thanks to the slick direction of Dominic Garfield, and the authenticity of Joseph Barnes Phillips’ script, the voices of Joseph’s mother, girlfriend and the various fleeting supporting characters blended together in harmony, to create a true storytelling experience. Often beautiful spoken word, street slang, hip-hop, prayer and grime music formed a polyphonic symphony.


Although Big Foot deals with emotionally raw material, its most refreshing virtue was that it did not take itself too seriously. Occasionally, this meant it seemed a little too on the spot. One instance in particular, when Joseph disappeared behind a screen which he manoeuvred, only to reappear and stand on a letter block to dance freestyle, disrupted the flow of the action too much, and came across as a little self-indulgent. But for the most part, the shift from comic to tragic was spine-tingling. From answering a toy phone in his pocket, to taking his mum’s blood pressure, the changes in tone were elegant and mature.


Nik Corrall’s striking set of stuffed toys, scaffolding, a mannequin, strings of lights and a parasol was a treat to behold. Transporting the audience from a hospital, to a park at dark, to a nightclub, Max Pappenheim’s sound design bounced around the space in a constantly dynamic way to highly original effect. Andy Grange’s lights were the perfect combination of subtle and daring, marking changes of character and supporting the energy of the booming grime. The set, lights and sound amplified the quality of the production up to a creatively formidable piece of theatre.

Joseph established a rapport with the audience from the get-go, so the piece’s ending, involving direct audience participation, which built to a moving final note, was not at all gratuitous. Beginning and ending dressed as his mother, Big Foot encapsulated the turmoil of young grief in a joyful celebration of life. Vivacious, cool; and verging on brilliant.


Reviewed by Eloïse Poulton

Photography by Camilla Greenwell




is at Stratford Circus Arts Centre until 7th October




Click here to see a list of the latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com