This tour of the iconic Mike Leigh comedy Abigail’s Party follows a triumphant West End revival. In part a history lesson for anyone not old enough to remember the 70’s, (but a fright for those of us who can) with the set including a trim phone, record player and record collection (including Donna Summer and Demis Roussos) orange clashing wall paper and G Plan furniture.
The whole play centres around Beverly and her husband Laurence, who have invited new neighbours Tony and Angela round for drinks. They are joined by Susan, a divorcee who is escaping her fifteen year old daughters’ party a few doors away, the unseen Abigail.
But as the drinks flow and drunkenness takes hold the evening disintegrates in to a bitchy scene of debauchery, with tragic results.
This production does take time to get going and it is not until the second half that there is any major reaction from the audience. Even then surprisingly it is Katie Lightfoot, as the new neighbour Angela, Samuel James as her husband Tony and Emily Raymond as Susan, Abigail’s Mum, who get the reactions and literally steal the show.
Hannah Waterman (taking over from Jill Halfpenny in the London revival) never seems to get under the skin of the dreadful Beverly and her biting jibes at husband Laurence, played by Martin Marquez. Who in turn, seems oddly detached from the proceedings. It maybe down to the redirection by Tom Attenborough from the revivals original director Lindsay Posner, as both are well know actors. But both performers lack any chemistry and the bitchy comments often seem to miss their mark rather than cut deep.
Everyone will recognise the characters in the play from real life and at times that adds to it being rightfully cringe worthy. But when tragedy strikes, you feel nothing for those involved.
There are some great moments and the set takes you back to an era you might want to forget, but you somehow feel there is something missing in this production as to why this play has remained iconic for so many years.