As previously mentioned, the Whingers hate Christmas.
For them it means the hassle and misery of popping down to Asda to purchase their respective cut price meals-for-one for the great day (to be consumed in their respective homes with only a sweet sherry for company) while happy, rosy cheeked families skip down the aisles. A depressing reminder of the Whingers’ very sad lives.
But they do quite like kitchens.
So the prospect of Bill Kenwright‘s revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1972 hit play Absurd Person Singular at the Garrick was seen by the Whingers as a bit of a potential curate’s egg, it being set on three successive Christmases (bad) yet following the tribulations besetting three couples in their respective kitchens (good).
Plus it has what passes these days for an “all-star” cast, although “all-star” to the Whingers would mean luminaries of the standing of Alastair Sim, Dandy Nichols and Ingrid Bergman (sadly all dead) and Googie Withers.
So, it’s 1972, It’s the year of Bloody Sunday, the year when Ford stopped production of the Zephyr. Geri Halliwell and Jude Law were born. The Duke of Windsor died. Idi Amin expelled Ugandan Asians and the dockers (remember those?) went on strike resulting in the government declaring a state of emergency. Depressing.
And depressingly it’s 1972 all over again on the stage of the Garrick Theatre: three acts, two intervals and a notion of “comedy” that really doesn’t stand up any more.
Ayckbourn states in the programme:
“…over a large area one can detect a faint sense of guilt that there is something called enjoyment going on. Should we, people seem to be asking, be sitting here laughing like this? It’s to do with the mistaken belief that because it’s funny, it can’t be serious – which of course isn’t true at all. Heavy, no; serious yes.”
Funny? No. It isn’t.
There was precious little enjoyment going on within the Whingers’ party (which included City Slicker and webcowgirl and London Theatregoer) other than an appreciation of the quality of the performances and the odd laugh.
City Slicker begged to leave in the first interval but the Whingers strapped her down.
Unfortunately Act II was even less funny. In fact it was distasteful. In this “farce” act, the deeply depressed Eva (Lia Williams), driven to desperation by her husband’s (John Gordon Sinclair) philandering, attempts and fails to commit suicide in various ways but no-one notices. Oh, how the audience laughed.
Yes, most of the audience were laughing but to be honest they looked as though they had been sitting there since 1972 anyway. The man next to webcowgirl spent most of the time asleep and was woken up only by his own snoring.
The Whingers, meanwhile, sat with grim expressions. Now, the Whingers aren’t known for their sensitivity – indeed they are more noted for their ability to laugh at the misfortunes of others; Shaudenfraude is their favourite word. But this…
On the plus side the costumes by Brigid Guy are marvellous.
The cast give it everything too. Full marks for effort: David Horovitch is magnificent as Ronald. Andrew thought Jenny Seagrove was something of a revelation, comedy-wise, although Phil wasn’t convinced (appearing to be drunk is something Phil does a lot, but doesn’t usually garner him applause at the end of the evening).
Jane Horrocks and David Bamber were good too, although there was a bit of a Groundskeeper Willie moment which took the entire audience aback when Bamber removed his shirt to reveal a hugely inappropriate set of defined muscles. He’s not just toned: he has one of those Charles Atlas physiques with more sticky out veins than Andrew has crows’ feet. According to some in the entourage, the word to describe such definition is “ripped”, though moving in theatrical circles as they do, this is a word only familiar to Whingers when used as a prefix to “off” and usually during a row about theatre programmes.
Act III was the most satisfying, but really this just felt like a play utterly unworthy of revival and best left in the cultural footnotes of the seventies alongside Love They Neighbour and The Dukes of Hazard.
The highlight of the evening was the programme, according to which Lia Williams “was named the Critics’ Circle Most Performing Newcomer” which the Whingers think sounds absolutely exhausting but is a category which should definitely be revived.