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A: Alan Ayckbourn Pf: 1972, Scarborough Pb: 1974 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Three kitchens in neighbouring houses in an English town, 1970s C: 3m, 3fHouse-proud Jane Hopcroft is cleaning her neat modern kitchen in preparation for a Christmas party, to which she and her husband Sidney have invited neighbours Ronald and Marion Brewster-Wright, a banker and his wife, and Geoffrey Jackson, an architect, whose marriage is less than happy, since he is a womanizer and his wife Eva is neurotic. While the party goes on in the living room, the hosts and guests wander in and out of the kitchen – except for Jane, who is mistakenly shut out in the garden in the pouring rain. The next Christmas, Geoffrey and Eva have invited guests to their untidy flat, where Eva, depressed, is still in her dressing gown. While Geoffrey welcomes the guests, Eva tries to jump from the fourth-floor window, and impale herself on a kitchen knife, then puts her head in the oven, but is interrupted by Jane, who volunteers to clean the stove. Eva attempts an overdose, a hanging with a clothes line, and finally an electrocution, but all fail. One year later, Marion's drinking has caught up with her and she stays in bed. When Geoffrey and Eva call, Marion gets up to join them for a drink. Annoyingly, Jane and Sidney, whose entrepreneurial schemes have all prospered, unexpectedly arrive and begin a dreadful game that involves dancing to an endless Scottish reel, hindered by various forfeits.

A: Alan Ayckbourn Pf: 1972, Scarborough Pb: 1974 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Three kitchens in neighbouring houses in an English town, 1970s C: 3m, 3f

In his familiar territory of loathsome suburbanites, Ayckbourn creates hilarious situations, with pain at the core. The second Christmas, where Eva is trying to take her life, while everyone else ignores her, is paradoxically funnier because of her intense and silent suffering. Ayckbourn recognizes that comedy can be a very cruel affair.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).


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Alan Ayckbourn (b. 1939) English dramatist


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