Tag Archives: Graham O’Mara

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

 

 

Punts

Theatre 503

Opening Night – 5 June 2017

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

A funny and moving play about a young man’s first sexual experience

 

Sarah Page is an award winning writer whose new play Punts gets a run at the welcoming and comfortable Theatre 503 in Battersea.

In this modern and edgy production she looks at decisions made by parents of 25 year old man with learning difficulties, Julia/Kitty – a sex worker they bring into his life and the various issues that are born out of that introduction. What we see is both funny, insightful and ultimately heart warming.

To assist her writing Sarah interviewed a number of sex workers from all walks of life including some whose annual income was higher than that of a Prime Minister. All had at some point worked with clients with disabilities.

Christopher Adams and Florence Roberts

The action is set in a West London home shared by Alistair, a barrister, his wife Antonia and their son Jack. It is clear from the opening scenes that Antonia is a caring mother; keen to ensure her son is perfectly ready for his first sexual encounter with Julia, chosen after careful research having read hundreds of reviews on ‘Punter-net’. Their exchange is both touching and extremely funny.

Jack has friends at the local rugby club and it seems their main focus of discussion is that of their sexual encounters. He is on the periphery of this talk and he is yet to lose his virginity. For months he thought he was in love with a Lloyds Bank cashier because she winked at him.

The initial meeting of all four characters is uncomfortable and the dialogue are mainly one line responses which did leave the observer to feel that conversations and development of the characters at times seemed quite stilted. There was one part of the play when Antonia and Julia discussed in detail their roles and how they felt about it. We learned a lot for this change of direction in the writing.

We learn much about the characters as all is not what it initially seems and the story of each develops as the events progress.

Christopher Adams plays Jack brilliantly. He is totally believable as a young man with learning difficulties and much can be earned from his character. Florence Roberts takes on her role with confidence though we see more of her acting abilities when she tells more of her real life as Julia, a care worker who supplements her income working as of ‘Kitty’. Clare Lawrence-Moody and Graham O’Mara play the worried yet devoted parents well. 

Designer Amelia Jane Hankin has made the most of a small workspace with a minimalist set which Lighting and Sound Designers Dan Saggars and Owen Crouch bring to life with vibrant lighting and thumping sound.

Overall this is a play that looks at some delicate issues with care, insightfulness and humour. If the enthusiastic audience reaction was anything to go by Sarah Page has delivered another well thought of piece of work.

 

Production photography courtesy of Claudia Marinaro

 

Punts is a Kuleshov Theatre production running at the Theatre 503 at The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW 503 with matinee, parent & baby friendly and relaxed performances until Saturday 24th June.

 

 

 

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