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Absent Friends By Alan Ayckbourn - UK Tour

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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London Classic Theatre Revive Comedy For Tour
Renowned playwright Alan Ayckbourn wrote this lesser known piece, Absent Friends, in 1974 and it shows.

Absent friends1
Absent Friends is one of Alan Ayckbourn's earlier works


Watching the play is almost like being suspended in a time capsule. Along with the wonderfully kitsch seventies decor and costumes, the type of situational comedy dates itself firmly in that period too.

It's a gentle piece of theatre with occasional waves of brief farce, which unfortunately also dip into periods of tedium.

London Classic Theatre has produced this latest revival, which tours the UK until November stopping off in cities including Birmingham, Leamington Spa, Windsor, Norwich and Torquay.

It revolves around a group of friends preparing to hold a tea party for a childhood mate, Colin, who has recently lost his fiance in a drowning accident.

Absent friends2
Comedy and marital disharmony in Absent Friends


There's plenty of Ayckbourn's trademark themes, such as disharmony between the married couples. Bit by bit, the audience is gradually exposed to each of their troubles, which ties in with the fact Ayckbourn wrote this play around the time his own marriage came to an end.

As the play moves on, the irony emerges that grieving Colin is far more optimistic than any of his married friends.

Despite the some-what slow story, the characterisation is wonderful and I found myself growing fond of each and every one of this motley crew.

Absent friends
A good cast in Absent Friends, but the play is dated and slow.


That was helped by some fine acting from the small cast. Susie Emmett, in particular, was a refreshingly funny as Marge, who is constantly putting her foot in her mouth, while John Dorney also deserves a nod for his exertions as fidgety John.

Ayckbourn has spent over half a century writing 79 plays. Absent Friends is probably lesser know because it is not one of his best.

Rating: 6/10

Absent friends3
Fabulously seventies costumes in Absent Friends


Absent Friends - UK Tour Dates
Ticket prices vary between theatres and cost around £16.

19-22 August
Malvern Theatres
01684 892277

26-29 August
Dundee Repertory Theatre
01382 223530

1-2 September
Gala Theatre, Durham
03000 266600

3-5 September
Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury
01743 281281

8-9 September
Towngate Theatre, Basildon
01268 465465

10-12 September
Millfield Arts Centre, Edmonton
020 8807 6680

15-16 September
Octagon Theatre, Yeovil
01935 422884

17-19 September
White Rock Theatre, Hastings
01424 462288

21-26 September
Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham
0121 359 9444

28 Sept - 3 Oct
Everyman, Cork
00 353 21 450 1673

6-10 October
Windsor Theatre Royal
01753 853888

13, 14 October
South Hill Park, Bracknell
01344 484123

15-17 October
Norwich Playhouse
01603 598598

19-21 October
Princess Theatre, Torquay
0844 871 3023

23-24 October
Queen's Hall, Hexham
01434 652477

27-31 October
Swansea Grand Theatre
01792 475715

3-4 November
Grove Theatre, Dunstable
01582 602080

5-7 November
Beck Theatre, Hayes
020 8561 8371

9-14 November
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
01473 295900

16-18 November
Royal Spa, Leamington Spa
01926 334418

19-21 November
Playhouse, Weston-Super-Mare
01934 645544

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Why? Revel in the '70s kitsch
When: Touring until November 2015
Phone: Various - see theatre list
Where: UK Tour - Birmingham, Leamington Spa, Swansea and more
Cost: Around £16
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