Party time: Amanda Abbington as Beverly, Rose Keegan as Susan, Ben Caplan as Laurence, Charlotte Mills as Angela. Pictures: Nobby Clark
Mike Leigh’s classic play from 1977 is currently on tour, and is a study in human relationships, with their hopes, desires, expectations, and disappointments laid bare within the confines of the suburban home of Beverly and Laurence.
Greeted by the beautiful set, the 'fourth wall' was actually the exterior of the house, and, as the house lights dimmed, the facade rises, and the wood clad interior opens up like a huge dolls house, the side walls and ceiling sweeping outwards to reveal a room dressed with the leather suite, teak furniture , shag pile rug and the kitsch 'must have' accessories deemed a necessary requirement to reflect the would be social status of the controlling Beverly.
Bring on the Bacardi, Demis Roussos, and the heady fragrance of Youth Dew and one is transported back to the glorious days, and nights of the 70s.
Amanda Abbington is the wonderfully excruciating Beverly, undermining her estate agent husband Laurence at every opportunity, his increasing anxiety, anger and nervous disposition played with irritable conviction by Ben Caplan.
Charlotte Mills is Angela who laughs too loudly, and speaks her mind with the most inopportune remarks, possibly to cover her embarrassment and the tacit demeanour of her husband, Tony, who works 'in computers' . Lovely performance from Ciaran Owens.
Beverly and Angela
Rose Keegan completes the cast as Susan, the mousy divorcee with no stomach for strong drink! Great contrast to the other characters.
Neighbours Angela and Tony are invited for drinks and nibbles along with Sue, who's teenage daughter is having a party in the adjoining house.
Beverly aspires to be the perfect hostess, plying her guests with copious amounts of alcohol, cigarettes and 'hedgehogs' of pineapple and cheese nibbles. However, the glitches, insecurities and frailties within all of the characters is embarrassingly cringe inducing, and as the evening descends into an emotional mixture of high farce and drama, the bickering and snapping concludes with an inevitable, though somewhat unexpected ending.
The play has endured the test of time and in this production, the actors give a reflective, well-constructed adaptation, their representations of the characters true to the originals but with a strong feel of their own interpretations.
This play is of the Marmite genre, you either love it or hate it, but, if you can relate to life in the 1970s you might well enjoy the vintage charms of Abigail's Party.
Directed by Sarah Esdaile and designed by Janet Bird, the party runs to 22-04-17
Elizabeth M Smith and Rosemary Manjunath