Stage Review – Absent Friends

absent Friends

Diana is a homemaker but her soft heart is hurting, as she is often overlooked and her domesticity goes unappreciated. Her children are away in boarding school so her hardest job now is to keep a grip on her marriage to Paul. She has organised an afternoon tea party and invited some old friends to their marital home. Colin is to be the guest of honour because he’s recently suffered the loss of a loved one and Diana’s thoughtful intention is to try to cheer him up.

Uncannily it is Diana who cuts a sad figure and whom we feel sorry for, and Colin, as it turns out, is the only positive and forward thinking person in the room.

The stark truth behind the laughs is that it reveals the attitudes of both men and women in the 1970s and how god awful they could be. True that people responses can still be ignorant and two-faced today, yet, generally, bad behaviour is questioned more and scrutinised more than it ever was back in this strange, oddly disjointed decade, falling within the living memory.

One of the fixations people had was the redecoration of their seventies homes, and for me the real triumph with this play is the setting itself. What a fabulous, creative eye for detail has designer, Simon Kenny, and it must have been great fun to build the set with to source the decorative items displayed. Because Diana has modern taste and the decor also needs to reflect her conservatism, so we have a real kitch living room with the glass wall partition and the York stone effect fire surround and the modular shelving as expected. And Diana wears a maxi length cocktail dress in the middle of the day, while serving cheese and pineapple chunks on sticks and we particularly enjoy the moment when she serves the rude and bullish Paul a dollop of fresh cream!

At The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until June 13
a National Tour 2015

Cast List
Past theatre credits (in all cases) include previous LCT productions
Diana – Catherine Harvey
Paul – Kevin Drury
Colin – Ashley Cook
John – John Dorney
Evelyn – Kathryn Ritchie
Marge – Alice Selwyn

Artistic Director Michael Cabot

Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall


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