If ever there was a play where the original production is going to overshadow anything that follows it, it has to be Abigail’s Party. Mike Leigh’s brilliant script is forever going to be associated with Alison Steadman and the rest of the cast who brought the play to life all those years ago. It is an enormous credit to this revival that, whilst it may not eclipse the original, it stands up alongside it very well indeed.
The first thing that strikes you on entering the auditorium is the impeccable set by Mike Britton. In those classic 1970s shades of orange and brown, it is a real homage to the decade the style seemingly forgot. The exaggerated patterns and soulless wooden furniture are recreated lovingly.
Amidst this sea of mediocrity, the emerald-clad Beverley struts, sashays and smooches her way round the stage. Hannah Waterman is not afraid to take this iconic character in a different direction from that we have come to know from the original. And it works magnificently. She oozes middle class pretention and sexual frustration in equal measure. Quite simply mesmerising.
Equally striking is the Angela from Katie Lightfoot. She captures the innocence as well as the naughtiness of the role. Again many new touches that set her apart from the original Ange. She is well partnered by Samuel James (as Tony) who manages to bring laughs with almost every one of his monosyllabic responses.
It is hard to find fault with Lindsay Posner’s production (ably recreated for the tour by Tom Attenborough), it is well-paced, fresh and constantly entertaining. As much as I love the 1977 cast, this new take on a contemporary classic social comedy is almost good enough to eclipse it. And that is some achievement.