The Weekend – a time to relax, enjoy a few drinks and welcome family and friends to visit. 

Well yes in normal homes but not that of curmudgeonly Stephen Febble who makes it quite clear that visitors and sociability are the last thing he wants in his Suffolk abode. 

So he is going to make it impossible for anyone else to relax and socialise in Michael Palin’s play The Weekend which gets the Company of Ten’s new season at the Abbey Theatre off to a flying start. 

The Weekend, which could be described as Ayckbourn-lite, is primarily a comedy that reveals a darker underbelly in the lives of several characters. 

It is an undemanding play to watch and as such, is perfect for drawing audiences into the St Albans theatre as autumn starts to settle in. 

Directed assuredly by Sally Davis, it is played out on one of those sets at which the Company of Ten excels – comfy chairs, a French window out to the garden, various doors to other parts of the house and the ubiquitous telephone. 

It is no wonder that the cast seems so comfortable right from the start. Within minutes the audience is left in no doubt what sort of man Stephen is. Indeed the role was once played by Richard Wilson, aka Victor Meldrew. 

The Company of Ten has its own answer to Meldrew in veteran actor Rory Byrne who has never, in my experience, given a duff performance on the Abbey Theatre stage. 


Here he rises to the challenge superbly – his Stephen is acerbic, rude, abrasive and very funny. He is totally unaware of what is going on around him or the impact his behaviour has on those in his orbit. 

As you would expect, he totally dominates the stage, a perfect foil to his wife Virginia, a lovely performance from Cassandra Fothergill, who appears to tolerate his drinking and bad behaviour. 

Most of the other characters are sketchily drawn but John Pyke as Stephen’s friend Duff is well observed both in speech and action. 

The real revelation is Keith Macdougall, making his Abbey Theatre debut as Stephen’s nerdy son-in-law Alan who has a passion for transport – among other enthusiasms. I look forward to seeing him in future productions. 

And who could ignore Jet who plays Pippa the incontinent dog brilliantly though thankfully her ‘accidents’ occur offstage.