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Absurd Person Singular - Stirling Players

Reviewed by Paul Treasure


Absurd Person Singular is one of Alan Ayckbourn’s most iconic and classic plays, and one that offers a number of challenges to a modern production. The play takes place over three consecutive Christmas Eves as it follows the fortunes and failures of three very different couples.

The challenge for the set and lighting designer is how to make three very different kitchens for each of the three acts. This production has decided to use a unit set in a very neutral colour, and use the furniture and other fittings to signify the differences. This approach worked quite well, with the different pieces, or the same pieces placed or dressed differently changing the entire feel of the room, from the brashly aspirational Hopcrofts, through the more stylish Jacksons, to the comfortable and established Brewster-Wrights. Most impressive were the practical pendant lamps in the second act, which switched on and off independently while also being able to be ripped off their cords by the actors.

The challenge for the performers is that this play takes place over a number of years. A lot happens to the characters in the intervals, and who they are by the end is different from who they were at the start. By and large, the performers have managed to create believable characters, but there appears to be little development between the acts. More work could have gone into developing a sense of how these people have changed over the intervening years. How the Hopcrofts start off as desperate and develop into smug and annoying people, and how the other couples start off as being smug and unpleasant and how they develop into desperate and hopeless by the end of the play.

Josephine Wayling, as Eva Jackson, needs to be singled out for giving us the most range with her character, especially in Act II, where she spends the entire act onstage but doesn’t utter a word until just before the act closes. Her quiet and focused continuing crisis was balanced well with her broken shell of Act I, and her more confident, more commanding Act III.

Overall there was a monotonous sameness to this production. The pace needed to be a lot tighter in some scenes, and loosened off in others. The scenes that needed to be frenetic were played with the same level of energy as the quieter moments. The actors' voices were pitched at the same volume regardless of their emotions, including in moments of fear or anger. The actors could have been pushed into giving us far more dynamic performances, especially as they gave us the impression that they were capable of rising to the challenge, had they been asked.

Rosemary Schultz (Jane), Russell Chandler (Sidney), Josephine Wayling (Eva) and Paul Anderson (Ronald)

Reviewer note: Paul has previously performed and stage managed at Stirling Players. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.



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