Play: Abigail’s Party
Venue: Grand Opera House, York
Reviewer: Julia Pattison
Abigail’s Party holds up incredibly well after 40 years; Director Sarah Esdaile found playwright Mike Leigh most supportive in allowing her to interpret his work in her own way, and not only tweaked the text for her production but was also on hand as a resource, to answer questions, to watch the work and support it.
That attention to detail, combined with support from actress Alison Steadman (who became a star after her iconic portrayal of Beverly in the 1977 television recording of Abigail’s Party) ensured that this play is as relevant today as it was back in 1977.
Jodie Prenger was superb in her role of the lead character of Beverly; wafting her way through her home (all credit to Janet Bird for the spot on set design – from fibre optic lamps to cheese plants and cheese and pineapple on sticks - this oozed the 70s era) preparing herself and her home in readiness for showing off to her cocktail soiree guests.
The cheesy music took you straight back to the 70s too.
I’d seen the TV recording of this iconic comedy many years ago, but the play really came alive in the theatre as the tensions rose and tempers flared, and the warring couples revealed their true thoughts once the facade of respectability was shed.
Polite, and long-suffering Sue (Rose Keegan) was the only guest you felt you could like.
She fielded off intrusive questions from Beverly and was trying desperately to be an understanding single mother to her teenage daughter Abigail who was having her first unsupervised party that evening.
Add to the mix Beverly’s fraught relationship with her husband Laurence (Daniel Casey) and tensions rising between Angela (Vicky Binns) and Tony (Calum Callaghan) and you have a really well-crafted play where humour, pain and pathos were classically connected to each other; a brilliant balance of the comic and the sad.
Compelling performances from a talented cast, led like a ship in full sail by Beverly, straight into dangerous waters where there were plenty of emotional icebergs lurking under a calm surface.
Do they all eventually reach a safe harbour?
Book seats without delay to find out.