Absent Friends: 10 Facts

10 Facts offer an at a glance guide to some of the key information relating to Alan Ayckbourn's plays.
  • Absent Friends is Alan Ayckbourn's 16th play.
  • The world premiere was held at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, on 17 June 1974.
  • The London premiere took place at the Garrick Theatre on 23 July 1975.
  • Absent Friends is the first Ayckbourn play to be set in 'real' time; the same amount of time passes for the characters onstage as for the audience. Alan Ayckbourn's notable other real-time play is Haunting Julia.
  • Unusually for the playwright, Absent Friends was inspired by a specific event in Alan Ayckbourn's life in which he attended a tea party for a woman whose husband had died during their honeymoon. The reaction to her insistence theirs would have been a perfect marriage directly inspired the play.
  • The playwright was also motivated to write the play having written a single scene in The Norman Conquests which by necessity had to have no action or forward movement of the plot. It was a scene where nothing happened except the characters talked; inspired by the reaction to the scene, the playwright decided to write a play where - in essence - nothing happens.
  • The original 1975 London production of Absent Friends marked the final time Eric Thompson would direct a West End premiere of an Ayckbourn play. He had previously directed Time And Time Again, Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests and Jeeves in the West End (as well as the Broadway premieres of Absurd Person Singular and The Norman Conquests).
  • In 1977, Absent Friends was adapted for radio by the BBC without the playwright's permission. Reduced in length to less than 60 minutes, the adaptation has now been withdrawn at the request of the playwright.
  • Absent Friends was adapted for television in 1985 by the BBC and directed by Michael Simpson. Starring Tom Courtenay as Colin and Julia McKenzie as Diana, it is considered one of the strongest television adaptation so the playwright's work.
  • The play received its New York premiere in 1991 when it was directed by Lynne Meadow for the Manhattan Theatre Club. Starring Brenda Blethyn as Diana, it also notably included the first major stage role of the actress Gillian Anderson - two years prior to finding initial fame as Agent Dana Scully in the popular TV series The X Files and the acclaimed stage and screen career which followed.
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.

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