Review: Absent Friends at The Kings Theatre, Southsea

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With only three performances during their flying visit, London Classic Theatre’s all-too-brief tenure at The Kings was sadly under-supported on opening night.

A pity, because their version of Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends had much to recommend it.

Ayckbourn’s comedy is of the blackest, rooted deeply in intolerance, misunderstanding and pain and much depends on the audience’s toes-curled-tightly discomfort at the onstage goings-on.

And never truer than in Absent Friends.

A group of old pals plan an afternoon tea for a long-lost friend whose fiancée has died. All good so far. But the sextet are plagued by secrets, jealousies and frustrations, driving the action and leading to a brilliant comedy of embarrassment.

Top marks to Alice Selwyn as Marge, whose grasp of Ayckbourn’s stylised version of everyday speech was superb. Ashley Cook does sterling work as Colin, the returning friend, and Catherine Harvey (Diana) and John Dorney (John) are on very good form.

Kathryn Ritchie tackles the monosyllabic Evelyn with a bit too much anger for a character who clearly couldn’t care less about anything and Kevin Drury as Paul never quite convinces.

We’re lucky to get this quality of touring professional theatre and we really should support it more.