Absent Friends plays at Chelmsford Civic Theatre this month

Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends will run from Tuesday, May 19 to Wednesday, May 20.

Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends will run from Tuesday, May 19 to Wednesday, May 20. - Credit: Archant

Six friends, one tea-party and a spectacular 70s backdrop come together in this production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends, at Chelmsford Civic Theatre later this month.

Director of the show, Michael Cabot, spoke about the prolific playwright’s first real-time play.

“He drops you straight into the living room, almost in the middle of a moment.

“You are literally parachuted in mid-conversation, from lights up, as well as in the second half. It takes the audience a moment or two to get that, it’s almost a surprise.”

The 1974 play, shows a group of old friends convening at the house of Diana (Catherine Harvey) in an attempt to cheer up Colin (played by Ashley Cook), whose fiancée has died in a tragic accident.

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“Colin is a slightly strange character, he’s an eternal optimist. He’s in his late 30s, he moved away for his work so he hasn’t seen these friends for three years,” Mr Cabot explains.

“Ayckbourn himself called it an example of the comedy of embarrassment.

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“It pre-dates things like The Office, it really was the very first example of this type of comedy of life.

“They’ve put a group of very different people together, they are friends but they have very different aspirations.”

Inter and extramarital discord runs thick through the play, which hints at the complex relationships and history between the characters.

“This is my first Ayckbourn play and we’ve been going for 15 years. It was long overdue,” added Mr Cabot, the founder and artistic director of London Classic Theatre.

Absent Friends runs at Chelmsford Civic Theatre on May 19-20, with post-show discussions with the cast. Tickets cost £15-16.50 (concessions available) from chelmsford.gov.uk/theatres.

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