AN evening of belly-laughs, giggles and thoughtfulness in a black-as-night farce: the perfect mixture. Absurd Person Singular at the Mill at Sonning boasts a stellar cast and a play from Alan Ayckbourn at the height of his powers.
The term “farce” is used loosely here. There are no embarrassed vicars or matronly women. Everyone keeps their clothes on. No one’s hiding in a bedroom somewhere. The farce in this play comes from middle-class pretension which has proved a rich seam for Alan Ayckbourn.
Philandering, drinking, professional incompetence and suicidal depression are unusual comic subjects but this excellent revival manages to get us to laugh enthusiastically at the same time as taking in the awful truth of them.
The second act, particularly, sees a spectacular series of pantomime physical mishaps — unblocking a sink, changing a light fitting, cleaning a gas oven — which has the cast reduced to comic wrecks. But throughout this, the deathly pale presence of a depressed woman continues to try to kill herself. We laugh out loud and cry inside.
The theme of a working class man and his wife on the up is perhaps dated now, but there is enough gold in this play for it not to matter. It splits into three acts, each with its own self-contained three-act structure. They all add up to a satisfying whole.