Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 395
Absurd Person Singular, first performed in 1972, is one of the earliest plays written by Alan Ayckbourn, a prolific English playwright known for the wry social commentary in his plays. The play's main characters are three married couples, and the action take place in three acts, each in the kitchens of one of the couples, on Christmas Eve. Despite the action being contained in one room, the play cleverly employs the "noises off" conceit to suggest action and characters in rooms that can't be seen, and occasionally characters enter the kitchen from other rooms also.
The first couple portrayed are the Hopcrofts, Jane and Sidney. As their last name suggests, they are interested in their social position ("croft" meaning a rustic cottage and "hop" suggesting social mobility) and as the play opens they are nervous about impressing their party guests. Jane is busily cleaning kitchen surfaces and Sidney teases her about worrying whether guests will actually come into the kitchen:
Jane: They might want to look . . .
Sidney: I doubt it.
Jane: The ladies might . . .
Sidney: (chuckling knowingly) I don't imagine the wife of a banker will particularly choose to spend her evening in our kitchen. Smart as it is.
In this exchange, Sidney indicates he thinks Jane is being a bit paranoid about guests seeing the kitchen, but also acknowledges how nice it looks, softening his criticism of her anxiety by complimenting how well she keeps the kitchen clean. As the first act progresses, most of the humor and conflict comes from the fact that Jane won't leave the kitchen because she is so busy making preparations to impress the guests; Sidney grows more impatient.
Sidney: You're really expecting rather a lot tonight, aren't you?
Jane: I'm sorry.
Sidney: Yes, well, it's got to stop. It's got to stop. I've got to entertain out there, you know.
This exchange shows that Sidney believes his role as host, which is crucial to impressing their houseguests, is somehow more important than Jane's role as homemaker. Despite the fact that Jane's preparations of food, drink, and other items make it possible for her husband to seamlessly impress their guests, he fails at first to really notice how important her role is. This theme is further expressed in Jane's decision to venture out into the foul weather to buy tonic water, and her absence being hardly mentioned by the guests.
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