In the Absence of Geoff by Charlotte Jones, BBC Radio 3, 4 January 2009
Why is suburbia such an attractive subject for British dramatists? What
possible attraction can there be in writing about Purley - a nondescript district of Croydon - or its near-neighbour Shirley,
notable only for its up-market golf club? Alan Ayckbourn carved out a dramatic career for himself by writing about these areas;
now it seems as if Charlotte Jones (author of In Flame and Humble Boy) has chosen to plough the same furrow.
The plot of In the Absence of Geoff was straightforward: Geoff (Adam Godley), a fortysomething service engineer of
gym equipment, believes that his life has been a failure and decides to commit suicide. However the attempt goes wrong, so
he decides instead to fake amnesia and return to life as a different person with no memory of his past. The press gets hold
of his story, and before long he has become a national celebrity, making regular appearances on breakfast television. Geoff's
ruse is cruelly exposed when he attends a volleyball match involving his daughter Lauren (Lizzy Watts), and encourages her
by shouting "Little Bean!" a pet name that he had coined for her when she was born prematurely. Although sacrificing his celebrity
status, Geoff, his wife Dawn (Amanda Lawrence) and Lauren have earned enough to leave Purley for good and retire to enjoy
a new - and presumably happy - life by the sea.
In its modest way, In the Absence of Geoff was reasonably entertaining.
Adam Godley's performance as Geoff suggested a man so frustrated with life that he resorted to desperate measures. He established
a confidential rapport with listeners as he disclosed his thoughts in asides. Charlotte Jones possesses a keen ear for
dialogue; she was especially good at capturing Lauren's teenage discourse, full of linguistic markers such as "like" and peppered
with superlatives ("really good," "sooo wonderful!") But ultimately I felt no sympathy for any of the characters. Maybe this
is something personal; having spent three decades of my life in London's suburbia, I was glad to escape elsewhere. Or maybe
I just wasn't particularly interested in their mundane lives, or whether Geoff topped himself or not. The director was