Stage Direct to perform Alan Ayckbourn classic in North Walsham

Stage Direct's cast of Absent Friends which is being staged at North Walsham's Atrium May 16-18

Stage Direct's cast of Absent Friends which is being staged at North Walsham's Atrium May 16-18 - Credit: Archant

A black comedy signals the arrival of an amateur dramatic company at its new venue.

Stage Direct is set to become the resident amateur group at the Atrium in North Walsham.

Its first show is Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends, which runs from May 16-18.

Its plot revolves around recently bereaved Colin, whose wife has drowned. His friends organise a gathering to comfort him, but discover the widower is coping well, while their own lives are the ones in tatters.

Director Derek Bull said the company did the show several years ago at Sheringham Little Theatre, and it 'went down well' - so was hoping it would be a good choice to launch itself at its new home.

Stage Direct was formed by Mr Bull and his wife Val in 1998, aiming to tackle 'edgy shows that many groups shy away from.'

Its first production in 1999 was Brimstone and Treacle, written by Dennis Potter - a 1976 television play temporarily banned by the BBC.

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Other shows have included Joe Orton's black comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane, Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party and Nell Dunn's Steaming.

Stage Direct merged with the Sheringham Players in 2004 but the partnership ended amicably in 2010.

The group, which has between 20 and 25 actors mainly from the Cromer, Sheringham and Norwich area, aims to perform two productions a year shown around May and October.

Mr Bull said they were excited about the new start at the new venue which was a 'smashing complex.'

Absent Friends was also Ayckbourn's favourite play and was 'dark but funny'.

The six strong cast in Absent Friends comprises: David Starling (Colin), Matt Fippard (John), Serena Cain (Evelyn), Ashley Burgoyne (Paul), Bernie Alexander (Marge) and Lorraine Ruddle (Di).

Stage Direct is aiming to do Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None as its next production in November - in the town where the writer used to spend time at what is now the Beechwood Hotel. Auditions will be held in July.

?Absent Friends is at the Atrium, Spenser Avenue, North Walsham from Thursday May 16 to Saturday May 18 at 7.30pm. Tickets - £10 or £7 for concessions - and information via the box office on 01692 400080 or visit