How successfully does Alan Ayckbourn slice into the soul of surburbia in Absurd Person Singular?
I feel Ayckbourn does it extremely well, as he takes three very different couples with very different lives and compares and contrasts them to give the everyday people and situations we come across in our own lives.
The characters in this play become more familiar as it develops and people like Marion who has a 2 faced personality becomes recognisable with people in your life.She begins complimenting Jane and Sidney on their kitchen by saying sweet things such as “what a simply dishy kitchen” but when Jane and Sidney cannot see her she turns to her husband Ronald and claims the house is “loathsome” and demands her husband to take her home in “5 minutes”
However Jane and Sidney fell everything is going wonderfully, as they have only invited these particular guests, to help them in the future.Sidney says to Ronald “I hope you’ve been giving a little bit of thought to our chat if you had a moment” Ronald is a bank manager and Sidney wants him to help him out a bit with loans.
Then there is Geoff, who is married to Eva.
Not that his marriage should mean anything as he constantly cheats on Eva and doesn’t care if she does or doesn’t know. Also he speaks openly about his filthy obsession. He describes one of his conquests as an “absolute little cracker”. His disloyalty unveils his shallow self but also reveals the reason for Eva’s pain which has led to depression.
As Ayckbourn “slices” through each character, we can see they are all pretending be something and they all appear to concerned with themselves, except Eva she doesn’t act differently to her self or hide her problems, which is clear when she says to Sidney on the subject of her pills ” they prevent me from turning into a raving lunatic”. Ayckbourn goes deeper to see her reasons for depression instead of trying to reveal a fake intention, which is what the others posses.
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In Act 2 the characters are slowly developing. This time the Christmas party is being held at Geoff and Eva’s and it appears they aren’t in the best of spirits as Geoff has just told Eva he’s leaving her for another woman, this is seen when he says “Sally and I will probably get somewhere else together” these words are harsh and blunt and have turned Eva mute.
When the guests finally arrive, Eva has decided to commit suicide, she begins to gas herself by placing her head in the oven, when Jane walks in and believes she’s cleaning the oven and volunteers to do it herself and says “don’t you worry about the oven…I must clean that oven if it kills me” Eva, upset that her plan has failed then attempts to overdose herself but accidentally drops the pills down the plug hole. Whilst trying to capture them, Sidney enters and thinks she’s trying to unblock it and says “you’ll never get a sink unblocked that way” then gets his tools kit and begins to ‘fix’ it. This creates a black humour as Eva’s situation is becoming more desperate as people keep interfering even though they believe they are helping but its also quite sad because it shows how little they know about each other as they can’t even see Eva is suffering from serious depression.
You can also see how involved they are with themselves and are completely oblivious to the fact that Eva is desperate to kill herself. There is a dramatic irony as Ronald sets about a routine repair of fixing a light bulb but Eva’s condition is anything but routine.
We become more and more sympathetic with Eva as she feels without Geoff she cannot live or his dismissal has led her to suicide but with Geoff we despise as he plays with Eva trying to twist things on to her by saying such things as “if your blaming yourself don’t” which seems he thinks she should be and he also claims “other men don’t have this trouble” when talking about his cheating as if it were some illness and deserves sympathy for it. As Eva continues to ignore him his impatience grows until he speaks of previous violence such as “I’m going to lose my temper. And we know what happens then don’t we. I’ll take a swing for you” his patronising and angry tone is almost creepy and furthers are hate for him.
Throughout it all, Eva’s many suicide attempts, Ronalds electrocution when changing the light bulb and Sidney drying himself from being soaked in dirty water while fixing the pipes. Is slightly over the top but that adds more comedy but the symapathy for Eva is still there as she is still suffering and suspension is created of what will become of the Brewster-wrights marriage as tension is created when Marion says “You’d never think it but he was a really vital young man, Eva you’d never think it to look at him” maybe claiming she is no longer attracted to him.