Absent Friends (Harold Pinter Theatre)

Posted on February 11, 2012

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Gosh, a busy week got suddenly busier as a ticket to Alan Ayckbourn’s revived ‘Absent Friends’ fell into my proverbial lap (falling into laps is something of a speciality of mine). From a chilly night into a rather warm Harold Pinter Theatre had me a little sleepy… and sadly, this show didn’t really spark any life out of me.

There are some key pieces of furniture and wardrobe I would happily own. Ooh, and that cake looked good too.

Oh there’s nothing wrong with it per se but Ayckbourn’s middle-class domestic drama felt rather pointless, but maybe that’s just me. Tearing away the veneer of friendships and relationships, nothing new came to the surface.

I’ve never seen ‘Absent Friends’ before, and am only passingly familiar with Aykbourn’s other works (‘The Norman Conquests’ and ‘Season’s Greetings’) however his reputation is large and his theatrical shadow is wide. I do think that ‘Season’s Greetings’ worked the same ground with better results.

So apart from the script itself feeling stale in its point of view, the production has many bright points. Katherine Parkinson melts down with such precision, mixing the heartache with the comedic. Reece Shearsmith is charmingly clueless. Even Kara Tointon, oh whom I had no expectations, plays her admittedly rather slim character with such gusto she was the main talking point once the curtain had dropped. In fact, I would have much preferred to view the play from the point of view of Evelyn, the harsh outsider, rather than Shearsmith’s Colin, the absent friend of the title.

Technically however, the show is well presented. There are some key pieces of furniture and wardrobe I would happily own. Ooh, and that cake looked good too.

At the end how much you enjoy ‘Absent Friends’ comes down to how much this tea-party is your cup of tea – and while I can appreciate the strengths, this just isn’t mine

Verdict: Like writing up a list of your lovers and suddenly remembering a man you’d completely forgot you’d shagged… that’s how I imagine I’ll feel about this play in a few years time. 

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Posted in: Play