Absent Friends

Written by Alan Ayckbourn

Thursday 25th April to Saturday 27th April and Tuesday 30th April to Saturday 4th May

Directed by Jacquie Penrose

AuthorAlan Ayckbourn

PlayAbsent Friends

It's always good to see old friends - isn't it? All Diana wants to do is to console the recently-bereaved Colin with a gathering of old friends and a nice cup of tea. But the reunion succeeds only in pouring salt into wounds, and what a shame Gordon couldn't come, being so poorly. Ayckbourn treats this road-crash of a party with a typical sureness of touch - it is at times sad and touching, but always bitingly funny. At least Colin seems to be enjoying his bereavement.

The Bench Production

Absent Friends Poster Image

This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre (formerly Havant Arts Centre), East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


DianaAlice Corrigan
PaulPaul Millington
JohnChris Vanstone
MargeSarah Parnell
EvelynCharlie Potter
ColinMark Wakeman


Director Jacquie Penrose
Producer Jaspar Utley
Stage Manager Ingrid Corrigan
Assistant Stage Manager Tammy Garner, Julie Wood, Robin Hall
Lighting and Sound Design Phil Hanley
Lighting Operation Lorraine Stone
Sound Operation Greg Stone
Set Design Jacquie Penrose
Programme Editor


The NewsDawn Sharpe

Ayckbourn's claustrophobic play, Absent Friends, has lost none of its ability to amuse and disturb.

Both acts take place in a stultifying sitting room as a group of 'friends' await the arrival of old acquaintance, bereaved Colin. It soon becomes clear that all is not well with the married couples present as the tension ratchets up to unbearable levels.

It's testament to Havant's Bench Theatre that they should open to an almost capacity audience, but the chance to admire Alice Corrigan (Diana) and the comic touches of Mark Wakeman (Colin) is too good to pass up.

Others in the small ensemble cast hold up well; super fidgety John (Chris Vanstone), mother hen Marge (Sarah Parnell) and beautifully underplayed Evelyn (Charlie Potter) navigate the pace of the piece with ease.

My only reservation? Obnoxious Paul (Paul Millington) might consider turning it up a notch at first so that we can understand the effect he has had on his wife.

A very competent production. Until Saturday.

Remote GoatJill Lawrie

Ayckbourn's analysis of friends relationships

Alan Ayckbourn is renowned for his ability to portray people so fearful of talking about their emotions and none more so than in this comedy about bereavement and the death of love, which was first performed in 1974.

A tea party has been arranged for a group of friends to come together to commiserate with recently bereaved Colin, though none of them have seen him in the last 3 years during which time he has found the love of his life and lost her in a drowning accident! The assembled group dread Colin's arrival, agonising over what words of comfort they can offer and all the while exposing gaping failures in their own marital relationships. However when Colin eventually does show up he is incredibly positive and appears to be coping considerably better than his circle of old friends.

Set in a suitably seventies interior this mismatched group of sympathetic companions includes the tragic housewife/hostess Diana, her philandering soul-less husband Paul, childless fusspot Marge (with an indisposed obese husband Gordon) and the younger couple fidgety John, his infant son and indifferent gum-chewing wife Evelyn.

The bubbling discontent is both funny and cruel creating long silent pauses from Alice Corrigan (Diane) with her well observed awkwardness culminating in an emotional outburst before disappearing off stage! Paul Millington takes the role of the brutally uncaring alpha male, though he does show some embarrassment when reminded of stealing a serviette from the house while courting his wife. Charlie Potter is thoroughly convincing as the sullen sulky Evelyn. However Mark Wakeman (Colin) valiantly rises to the challenge finding humour in his tragic situation, though with no significant event taking place, this play is in danger of flat lining.

Bench Theatre's next production is "Ladies' Day" (July) followed by "Look Back in Anger" (September) and will be eagerly awaited by their loyal supporters.

Production Photographs