ALAN Ayckbourn's highly popular comic masterpiece Absurd Person Singular is now 49 years old and its age is beginning to show.

The latest production of this 1972 classic is performed by the London Classic Theatre company and tours to Bath's Theatre Royal until Saturday before moving on to Doncaster.

Produced as part of LCT’s 20th anniversary celebrations, Ayckbourn’s comic tour-de-force about social mobility in 1970s suburbia fuses a potent mix of farce and black comedy.

The curtain rises on the tasteless kitchen of Sidney Hopcroft, a small-time tradesman with upwardly mobile ambitions, and his wife Jane, who is obsessed with cleaning, played to perfection by Felicity Houlbrooke and Paul Sandys.

By the time the play reaches its climax, they have struck fear into posh bank official Ronald Brewster-Wright and his wife Marion, who has a fondness for gin, played delightfully by Graham O'Mara and Rosanna Miles, as well as randy architect Geoffrey Jackson and his manic depressive wife Eva, ably played by John Dorney and Helen Keeley.

On the surface, Absurd Person Singular appears to be a light comedy, with stereotypical characters and a plot riddled with cliches.

Underneath, it explores social mobility and the power struggles between couples, in a role reversal as the upwardly mobile Hopcrofts eventually persuade the Brewster-Wrights and the Jacksons to literally dance to their tune at a dire Christmas Eve party.

This was the first time I had seen Absurd Person Singular but the cast wring the comic best from a contrived plot that reflects middle class values, a preoccupation with money and an ambition to 'get on'.

John Baker