The play I am writing about is called ‘Absurd Person Singular.’ It is written by Alan Ayckbourn, a modern writer and also a very clever writer in my view. This play is about three couples. In each act (there are three acts) it is set in one of the couples’ kitchens on Christmas Eve, and we see how their kitchens reflect on the couples that own the kitchen, this kind of play is called a kitchen sink drama, the idea of which is the base for soaps such as ‘Eastenders’. Throughout the play we see how people change and why they change, we also see how the couples react to different situations that happen in the play, Ayckbourn also employs a number of strategies to bring to life characters never seen by the audience and to ‘show action’ that occurs offstage. It is a modern play, it was written in 1972 and raises, issues such as social climbing and different types of relationships, jobs, mental states and households. In my assignment I will discover all these different issues and plot subjects, clarify them in a lot of detail and write about how the audience reacts to different parts of the play, also I will pick out the unities the play has.
In this play Ayckbourn makes it a technical play so it stays to one particular point. A technical play is a play that has a very tight story structure so the writer, in this case Ayckbourn, can stay to the same sort of subjects. Ayckbourn uses lots of dramatic devices throughout his play, he does this so he gets a reaction out of the audience, and some people will react to it in different ways, this is also a good way to get the audience involved and think about what they have done to other people that relate to the dramatic devices Ayckbourn uses. This also shows that Ayckbourn knows what will make an audience react, so when he writes his plays he doesn’t just think like a writer, he thinks as a person from the audience would think as well.
In this play Ayckbourn uses a genre called ‘ a kitchen sink drama.’ Ayckbourn uses this type of genre so that the audience can identify with the characters that are performing, as usually this type of genre deals with real life issues and characters. Often this type of genre is very funny but with an undercurrent of sadness. Ayckbourn has wittingly set the play in seemingly the ‘wrong room.’ Also each kitchen has an upstairs bedroom and gardens just outside the kitchen doors, this is employed by Ayckbourn for incidental offstage action. Also I think it is set in the kitchen because people’s guards are down in this informal room and Ayckbourn makes the audience hear the conversations he wanted them to hear. This shows that Ayckbourn even thinks of what effects the type of room will have on the audience, he is a very clever and talented writer.
Ayckbourn uses different types of unities in his play, which I will be explaining later on. Firstly I will explain what a unity is. A unity is any one of the three principles of dramatic structure derived from ‘Aristotle’s Poetics.’ These state that the action of a play should be limited to one plot unity of action, one day unity of time, and one location unity of place. The unties Ayckbourn has used are the time and season, the context (place) and the situation. When Ayckbourn uses the unity, ‘time and season,’ the unity is on Christmas Eve over three successive years (‘last,’ ‘now,’ ‘next’). He also uses the unity, ‘context,’ this refers to where about it is set in the house, in this case it is set in the kitchen in each house.
Act 1- “Sidney and Jane Hopcroft’s kitchen of their small suburban house.”
Act 2-“Geoffrey and Eva Jackson’s kitchen in their fourth-floor flat.”
Act 3-“The Brewster-Wright’s kitchen.”
Here Ayckbourn gives a brief description of the three kitchens apart from The Brewster-Wright’s kitchen. He later on gives a more detailed description of each kitchen so the audience can make up their own first impressions on the couples. The other unity he uses is, ‘The situation.’ In every act it starts the same; there is a conversation between two people.
Act 1-Sidney “Hallo, hallo. What are we up to out here, eh?
Jane “(without pausing in her work) Just giving it a wipe.”
Act 2-Geoffrey “(off) Darling? Eva-Eva!
Act 3-Ronald “Oh hallo there.
Eva “All right?”
Ayckbourn uses this so that the audience can make an opinion on how the couples get on in their first impression. Usually the first impression for Jane and Sidney would be they get on well. With Geoffrey and Eva, Eva doesn’t even reply so the first impression would usually be ‘I wonder what’s gone wrong here then?’ Lastly there is Ronald and Marion; Marion isn’t even there at the start its Eva talking to Ronald. My first impression was ‘where is Marion? Why isn’t she with her partner at the start of the act like all the other couples were?’ I think Ayckbourn ‘show’s action’ occurring offstage emphatically, he does this with Marion and Ronald at the start of act 3, he shows Marion’s actions through Ronald.
Every unity Ayckbourn uses will have an effect on every audience and make them think why he has used those unities in that certain way. In the ‘time and season’ it makes the traditional associations with Christmas be anticipated by the audience. The second unity he uses, ‘context’ is a surprise to the audience because it is set in a kitchen and it isn’t the normal room people have as their main room and their usual venue for a party.
The normal main room or party room would be the dining room or sitting room or most other rooms that the kitchen, a kitchen is the last place I would make my main room for a party or my main room. I think Ayckbourn used this so it would make the audience think more. It also provides a very good visual effect because the audience can see the couples through the kitchen in a physical and emotional way. The last unity he uses ‘the situation,’ makes the audience learn a lot about the real characters and it also builds up a lot of tension in the audience so it makes them want to know what’s going to happen next. In the ‘context’ and ‘situation’ there are certain things that happen in each act such as parallels and echoes, doorbell rings – guests arrive – atmosphere changes. Ayckbourn does this because it gives the audience a direct form of contrast, makes tension in audience, reveals public versus private natures of characters and also the change reveals importance of public appearance.
Ayckbourn uses three types of different comedy they are, farce, black comedy and satire. Farce is a ridiculous situation in which everything goes wrong or becomes a sham. Black comedy is a humour that contains bitter jokes about unpleasant aspects of life. Satire is the use of wit, irony and sarcasm to put other people down or to make fun of them. One good example of farce is when Jane and Sidney try to start a party games at Ronald and Marion’s house.
“Get the party going, bit of music…(he switches on the radio and begins to dance a little)”
Sidney tries to start the party but no one really wants to join in, Sidney tries to do this because he wants to make everyone enjoy themselves but also he is actually trying to make the others look stupid so everyone laughs at them. One example of black comedy is when Eva is about to jump out of her window but Geoffrey sees her and tries to stop her but he ends up talking to her like he talks to his dog.
“Eva! Eva – that’s a good girl. Down.”
This shows what a poor relationship they have and it’s sad that Eva wants to die but it is very funny visually because of what Geoffrey is saying. The last piece of comedy is satire; an example of this is when Sidney and Jane are giving out Christmas presents and they gave Ronald a pair of electrical screwdrivers knowing full well that last Christmas he electrocuted himself.
Jane-“You should know those, shouldn’t you?”
This shows how inconsiderate Jane and Sidney and how they love having a laugh at the expense of others.
With farce it is a very funny visual comedy for the audience, Ayckbourn used this so that it would build up a lot of tension in the audience so they would be on the edge of their seats, dying to know what is going to happen next. Black comedy is a comedy that is funny but the audience would feel guilty about laughing because it is something that is funny but it is still very unpleasant at the same time because it is a laughing matter at someone’s problems or disadvantages. Satire is a comedy that is very funny but Ayckbourn uses it mostly so the audience laugh about it but also think about it to, it makes them think about what they have done horrible to someone just for a laugh at their expense.
I think Ayckbourn did a tremendous job of making his play a realistic one, I think it is exactly like something that would happen in real life, it isn’t just a play that is not likely to happen in a real life situation. It is a great kitchen sink drama; it is just as good as soaps such as Eastenders, Ayckbourn ‘shows his action’ rather than ‘describe it’. Ayckbourn uses his dramatic devices to the best possible extent; he uses them when there needed and comes up with the best ideas for where it is set and everything like that. I think he does this so well because he doesn’t just think of what seems good to him he thinks of what other people would think is good to, he thinks like a writer and as a member of the audience. Ayckbourn realized that an audience’s imagination could do far better than any number of play writer’s words. That is a sign of a great writer. All the dramatic devices have a great effect on the audience because there are visual devices emotional devices, so it appeals to all the audience not just part of the audience. I think Ayckbourn has created his play into a great piece of drama and I recommend everyone to read it because it is funny, clever, and sad, it has everything that makes a great piece of drama.