Riotous Christmas comedy of manners

The Rossendale Players' "Absurd person Singular"
The Rossendale Players' "Absurd person Singular"

The very British obsession with class and social climbing is the focus of the new production from The Rossendale Players.

Alan Ayckbourn’s “Absurd Person Singular” follows the lives of three couples over three Christmases and their dreams, downfalls and dramas.

The cast of six pull it off with aplomb, particularly David Rhodes as ambitious social-climber Sidney Hopcroft, Gemma Rooke, his long-suffering wife Jane, and Helen Lockett, in ebullient mood as the gin-drenched snob Marion Brewster.

A comedy of manners, there are plenty of riotous moments throughout, including slapstick and plenty of farce, which work well on the tiny, snug stage of the New Millennium Theatre in Waterfoot.

Even the darker moments, such as when the neurotic Eva Jackson attempts suicide – in a number of increasingly hilarious and unsuccessful ways – had the audience laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Dorrie Partington plays the troubled Eva in a very dry, downbeat style that works well next to her cheating husband, played by Paul Higginbottom.

Tony McDonagh, as scheming bank manager Ronald Brewster, completed the fine cast.

Staged over three acts, the play does have a serious, underlying message – that wealth is by no means a precursor for happiness as the infidelity, drinking and reliance on medication causes all manner of problems for the couples.

My only criticism, and perhaps this is more aimed at the playwright, is that the story ends very abruptly with no real conclusion.

That said, Absurd Person Singular is a riotous laugh.

It is running until Saturday, December 7th, at the New Millennium Theatre, Burnley Road East, Waterfoot.