Absent Friends Icon
Harold Pinter Theatre - Formerly
Comedy Theatre, Panton Street SW1Y 4DN
Absent Friends
by Alan Ayckbourn
Comedy Theatre location mapMap ©Silvermaze Ltd 2008 Comedy Theatre photoPhoto ©Tony Reading 2008
Show Details
Preview 26th Jan 12
Opens 9th Feb 12
Booking to 14th Apr 12
Show Times
Mon - Sat 7.30 pm
Matineé Wed & Sat 2.30 pm

Local Info
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A classic viewing of all the Theatreland play houses by night. The authentic commentary, by Ben Shafik - a player himself - gives an authentic feel to the West End's theatres - and is backed by real music.
Next version will be more upbeat as, suggested, to celebrate Britannia's unbeatable heritage.
(Over 6000 viewings and all good reviews to date).
Let us know what you think.

A note from the author

I took these pictures to show off London theatres as they are seen -most often - by theatre goers, at night.

Thanks to Ben Shafik for his lighthearted and informative commentary and Fionn O'Lochlainn for the original music.

Watch out for the new version with current liveries and the names of the theatres as they appear.


Absent Friends

Absent friends


Revived now in the Comedy (ooops Harold Pinter) this is one of Aykbourn's funnier plays, tragi-comedy though it may be. It is set in the 50's and the clothes depicted the worst of fashion at a time when the worst and best were rolled out by an enthusiastic if taste free rag trade of the time - side by side. It emphasised also the worst of males of the time. The archtypal insensitive English stiff upper lip and happy with the burgeoning taste for spanking. Yet it seems to be the females who won out in their agonized insistance to plough in with their own monologue of woes - like marital infidelity. A little uncalled for wouldn't you say considering that the star guest at the tea party was an old friend mourning his tragically drowned girlfriend - a fiancée of 14 months.

All the parts are full ones. Great characterisations of characters gone by. It is a tricky thing to do to take such a mountain of potential grey blankets - the borderline of being funny at all - and see the funny side throughout. By all accounts it is brilliantly well played. The way it was then was pretty damn grey - side by side with flashes of sheer joy such as the easy access to wonderful satirists and purer women. Don't be fooled by the now PC.


A group of well meaning friends heard of the sudden death of the fiancée they had never met. Colin was remembered as a quietish bookish type so they were all prepared to do the talking and possible soothing. Who knows? maybe even a chance to give advice.

Absent friends - Trio

Then in bounces Colin with photo albums of his deceased dear one. The main hostess Diana does talk a lot, Evelyn is tied to her hubby by a pink pram and Marge is sadly childless. Colin's "all bouncy born-again brightness" (Billington) turns the tables on the others. Intrigue emerges through the parody of the 70s grey side. Is some illicit sex going on? A fling perhaps?

Absent Friends  Absent Friends

It's a play that everyone can see someone or other in - maybe a flash of themselves so it's likely to hang around for a while as food for thought. The plays are short run these tight days so don't miss it.

Mon – Sat: 7.30pm
Weds & Sat Matinees: 2.30pm
Show lasts approx 2hrs 20mins including one interval.


  • Reece Shearsmith - Colin
  • David Armand - John
  • Elizabeth Berrington - Marge
  • Katherine Parkinson - Diana
  • Steffan Rhodri - Paul
  • Kara Tointon - Evelyn


  • Lighting - Peter Mumford
  • Sound - Ian Dickinson
  • Designer - Tom Scutt
  • Director - Jeremy Herrin
©Covent-Garden.co.uk 2017 Updated 16th Jun 2012