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Format: 20 Nov 2017

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What's it all about?

You're invited to a tea party, but this is no ordinary get-together. It’s a heady brew of stage and screen stars, from The IT Crowd’s Jen to Pygmalion leading lady Kara Tointon. Oh, and did we mention the reason for this little bash is that there’s been a death?

So it’s not your average soirée, but in the hands of ace playwright Alan Ayckbourn (The Norman Conquests, A Woman in Mind) the scene is set for an exquisitely black comedy of embarrassment and social awkwardness - just the thing to make your own life seem relatively sane, and your first chance to see Absent Friends on the London stage since 1975.

What's the story?

When Colin's fiancée suddenly dies, his friends rally round to offer tea and sympathy. But, oddly enough, Colin is perfectly happy – annoyingly so in fact. Great, you might think, but his friends don't share his rose-tinted view and their relationships aren't nearly so blissful.

As you eavesdrop on this deliciously uncomfortable evening, Colin's relentless cheerfulness rubs everyone up the wrong way and it's his supposedly sorted friends whose relationships begin to crumble.

Who's in it?

The cast of Absent Friends reads like a Who's Who of British comedy. There’s Reece Shearsmith from Psychoville, Katherine Parkinson from The IT Crowd, Gavin and Stacey’s Steffan Rhodri (aka Dave Coaches) and David Armand from The Armstrong and Miller Show.

But the talent doesn't stop there. You’ll also find former EastEnders star and Strictly Come Dancing winner Kara Tointon strutting her stuff alongside Elizabeth Berrington of Waterloo Road.

Who is Absent Friends suitable for?

If you didn't get your fix of Ayckbourn farce from the Old Vic’s Norman Conquests trilogy a couple of years ago - or you did and it left you longing for more - this will be right up your street.With shades of Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party and Harold Pinter's legendary pauses, serious theatre fans will certainly enjoy this. But even if plays aren't normally your thing, this is a great opportunity to see some of your TV heroes in a comedy classic.

Absent Friends reviews - staff

This show is fresh and funny, and despite a few awkward silences, it cheers up your day, is easygoing, and you may even get some relationship tips along the way!


Absent Friends was quite funny and nicely presented. It's good for a fun night with friends or if you're looking to discover a new play.


Absent Friends reviews - most recent customers

Great show, very well performed... And very funny!

a real treat what a wonderful way to spend a saturday afternoon. great set, characters and plenty of laughs. can't wait for further alan ayckbourne plays

Excellent, very funny and good actors!!!

Great show, brilliantly acted with perfect timing. Very funny.

My friends and I had a really good evening. We enjoyed the play immensely and were surprised that the character of Evelyn was so well played by the actress. She did not do much, but she did it so well, she does have a stage presence. congratulations to her and the rest of the cast.

Thoroughly enjoyed the show, very funny if a little dark. Very clever production. Met Kara outside the theatre, what a lovely person.

Absent Friends photos

Did You Know?

Ayckbourn was inspired to write Absent Friends while working on The Norman Conquests. This intricately plotted trilogy required him to write a scene where nothing happens - a scary prospect, he admits. But he was so taken with the idea that later he set himself the challenge of writing a whole play like that - a risky strategy, but one that paid off.

Over the years, the play has starred many famous faces, from Brenda Blethyn to Richard Briers, but did you know it also helped launch the careers of both Gillian Anderson and Tamzin Outhwaite?

Fascinatingly, the play is partly autobiographical. Ayckbourn had two friends, one male who always insisted on seeing the sunny side in people's behaviour, the other a woman who lost her fiancé in an accident. When he and his friends invited her over to cheer her up, they found her upbeat attitude made their own relationships look distinctly rocky - an uncomfortable experience for them, but great dramatic material for us.

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