Absent Friends at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London
All About Absent Friends
Another tried and tested comedy returns to London theatre, and the newly renamed Harold Pinter Theatre in particular, in the form of Alan Ayckbourn’s darkly comic Absent Friends. The last time you could enjoy an Absent Friends Theatre Break in London’s West End was 1976 when it was directed by Magic Roundabout narrator Eric Thompson! I’m full of useless bits of information today!
I’ll come on to the story in a moment but first it is probably worthwhile highlighting the cast. From the worlds of stage, TV and film is assembled a rather cracking bunch. Under the stewardship of director Jeremy Herrin, Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen), Kara Tointon (Pygmalion, EastEnders, Strictly Come Dancing Winner 2010), Steffan Rhodri (Gavin and Stacey), David Armand (The Armstrong and Miller Show), Elizabeth Berrington (In Bruges, Waterloo Road) and Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd, Season’s Greetings) combine to give London a rather stellar cast: even if Ayckbourn’s comedy wasn’t worth a visit on its own – I’d probably go an see that lot if they were just having a drink down the pub!
Absent Friends Synopsis
Well not a synopsis, because that would ruin everything, but a brief idea of what to expect.
Colin, unbeknownst to his friends, is actually rather happy living with just the memory of his recently departed fiancee! However Diana, the wife of one of Colin’s old friends, decides to host a dinner party in a mis-guided attempt to cheer him up.
Unfortunately the group she has assembled is not capable of cheering anyone up, in fact she would have struggled to put together a less cheerful bunch!
Alan Ayckbourn does a wonderful job of pushing each character to the very apogee of happiness – in stark contrast to the rather un-nervingly happy Colin.
Hotels and Absent Friends Theatre Breaks
Absent Friends is on at the Harold Pinter Theatre (formely the Comedy Theatrer) in Panton Street, just off the south-west corner of Leceiester Square.
Because you are right in the middle of the West End there are no really cheap offerings nearby, but because the nearest Tube stations are Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square you do get easy access from all over London on the Piccadilly and Northern Lines.
Two Radisson Edwardian hotels, the 5 star Hampshire and the 4 star Leicester Square offer excellent accommodation nearby. Usually a little cheaper are the equally handy Thistle Trafalgar Square and Thistle Piccadilly and just the other side of Piccadilly Circus is Le Meridien and also The Ritz if you are really feeling flush.
Use the booking box adjacent for some great deals or, for a wider selection of hotels book at http://bookings.theatrebreaks.co.uk/Theatre/absent_friends_comedy-332.htm
Absent Friends Performance Times
Booking from:26th January 2012
Booking until:14th April 2012
Running time:2 hours and a bit
Evening: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Wednesday and Saturday 2.30pm
Average rating: 1 reviews
Feb 7, 2012
I really, really wanted to like this comendy. I really, really wanted to laugh my head off. Was I expecting too much from the genius pen of Alan Ayckbourn? I don't think I set my sights too high because in the past I have LOVED his comedies.
The new production of Absent Friends which is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London just didn't do it for me. It should have... it's got a great cast who have collectively a CV as long as two arms of comedic roles behind them. However, apart from the ever-brilliant Elizabeth Berrington & spasmodic moments from Reece Shearsmith, no one else made me even give a wry titter.
I know this is a play of uncomfortable moments when the direction given to the characters is to just sit on stage and squirm silently with embarrassment - in my opinion this should be a funny moment for the audience, but it wasn't. I just felt myself giving a sly look at my watch to see when the interval was.
I'm sorry, I hate writing bad reviews, but this play was not only Absent of Friends, but Absent of Laughs.
I only give it 2 stars because of Elizabeth Berrington.
Ouch! So what do you think needs to change to make it work? I've herard som excellent comments on this and the reviews from the papers aren't out yet - so maybe there is time...