The 2015 season at the Devonshire Park continues in its rich vein of excellent productions and this week’s offering of Alan Ayckbourn’s somewhat black comedy Absent Friends continues the trend.  Although this production marks London Classic Theatre’s 15th anniversary year, it is their first visit to Eastbourne and so it was with huge pleasure that The Friends welcomed the cast and company to the Bar Reception on the opening night of their UK tour.

The Cast (l-r): Kevin Drury, Catherine Harvey, Ashley Cook, Kathryn Ritchie and Alice Selwyn

The Cast (l-r):
Kevin Drury, Catherine Harvey, Ashley Cook, Kathryn Ritchie
and Alice Selwyn

The play, written in 1974 and the first Ayckbourn play to be set in ‘real time’, takes place in the living room of a middle class ‘executive’ suburban house in 1974 – a time that clearly resonated with many of the audience at the opening night.  It is a comedy about bereavement and embarrassment in the face of death and contains many hilarious scenes of social embarrassment when it is almost impossible to contain the laughter.

A true period piece and now forty or more years on, it is difficult to remember just what a time of social transition – particularly for women – this era was.  Watching this production and the excellent portrayals from all six cast members there is little doubt that the audience was transported back to the time when housewives such as Diana (Catherine Harvey), willing to subjugate themselves to the male ego of their husbands – in this case the arrogant and pompous bully, Paul (Kevin Drury) – were not uncommon.  To many, the set too will have brought back many memories of their own homes of the 70s: the cheese and pineapple hedgehog, the hideous star-burst wall clock, the Hornsea pottery tea set and the chrome and glass tables. Clearly much fun had been had in sourcing the props and we understand that Eastbourne proved a rich picking ground!

It was a delight that all the cast and so many of the company gave so much of their time to chat to the many Friends who had gathered to meet them.  The reaction of this first night audience bodes well for the tour ahead of them and The Friends wish them every success.

Please click on any of the images below to enlarge