Theatre: Absent Friends

Wednesday evening was an opportunity to catch the latest revival of Alan Ayckbourn's frightfully witty comedy, Absent Friends, which is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre. There is something about this play that has enduring appeal, even now as a period piece. It takes a particularly English setting of an afternoon tea party and slowly twists it. It is funny and occasionally surprising which makes for a great night out.

The story focused around a tea party organised for Colin (played by Reece Shearsmith), who returns to visit his circle of friends after the death of his fiancee. For a variety of reasons, his friends are more anxious about how to deal with the situation than he is and so the play explores the very English way people deal with grief and loss, infidelities and lost dreams.

The production takes you back to the 1970s, and reminded me of my parents house. There is also a wonderful collection of tea cups and matching teapot decorated with a giant sunflower and hideous colours. And the set is complete with rock walls and dark wooden furniture. It all served to ram home what life back then was really about: polyester and laminate. And it is enough to make you wonder what role the environment played on sending people bonkers. 

In addition to Shearsmith there is a great ensemble cast here that works hard for the laughs. This includes David Armand, Elizabeth Berrington, Katherine Parkinson, Steffan Rhodri and Strictly Come Dancing Winner 2010 Kara Tointon. Tointon manages to give such an understated performance involving chewing gum and reading a ladies magazines, that she gets laughs from just glaring at one of the characters. As its short run continues no doubt it will get even better. Worth catching.

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