Loved it..I'm a 67 year old female and went with my 27 year old son--he loved it too! Ageless and very funny from all angles. All actors superb....would love to see it again, but all seats sold out....bring it back!!! - Janet
12 Apr 12
The set of Abigail’s Party plays a crucial role in this production, for as the audience take our seats in the intimate space that is the Menier, we are confronted with this living room from the 70’s – all browns and oranges, immediately drawing us in to this horrendous party, before it even begins, with its endlessly flowing alcohol, cheese on sticks and Demis Roussos records.
As Beverley, Jill Halfpenny does not quite achieve the same out and out vicious forcefulness of those who’ve preceded her in the role. Where she does particularly excel is in the flirtatious scenes with Joe Absololm’s Tony where she lays on the sexual allure with a trowel. Tony as played by Absolom captures the frustrations and aggressiveness of Tony’s character. As Laurence, Andy Nyman leaves you wanting to feel sympathy yet ending up frustrated by his ineptitude. Susannah Harker’s Sue is so hopelessly grey and soft that she offers no redeeming qualities whilst Natalie Casey steals the show with her fabulous portrayal of Angela, the nurse who dresses and speaks like someone so gormless and naïve about life that you want to shake her. Her Angela is both funny and touching and by the end is the one true survivor of the piece and the only character that makes you want to care about them.
As a friend said to me, Abigail’s Party is like watching a car crash. It certainly is and in this production it’s done in a wonderfully awful and compelling way.
- Paul Wallis
09 Apr 12
This is terrific. Natalie Casey's Angela is reason enough to see this, and good justification for putting new flesh on the bones of an old classic. Casey is comic excellence, her dumb innocence and uncomplaining victimhood played with a straightfaced gormlessness that is hysterically funny. Jill Halfpenny's bitter and twisted uber-glam Beverley is an equally wonderful creation, and in combination with Casey's Angela, they form a formidable comic double act. God help those in their firing line: Sue (a prevaricating and prissy Susannah Harker) and Laurence (Andy Nyman more tightly wound than Basil Fawlty) may be horrendous snobs, but they really have no chance against Beverley and Angela. Only Joe Absalom's monosyllabic thug Tony holds his own against them by virtue of his good looks and violent bearing. As a study of how horrible relationships can be, and how nastily people can treat each other, this play is prescient. And when Angela finally stands up to Beverley, that is unforgettable! - steveatplays
24 Mar 12
I loved it. Jill Halfpenny is very funny. - PJ
19 Mar 12
One might have expected this 35-year old Mike Leigh play to have aged, but surprisingly it seems to have matured – with 70′s nostalgia and retro style now an added bonus!
Given millions have seen the TV version, it probably needs little by means of description. Beverly & Laurence have invited new neighbours Angela & Tony around for drinks and nibbles (cheese and pineapple, obviously, as this is 1977). They’ve also invited a more long-serving neighbour Susan, who’s teenage daughter Abigail (subject of the play’s title, but an offstage character) is throwing a party in her home. A lot is drunk, Beverly nags Laurence mercilessly and flirts with shy Tony and Susan frets. Abigail’s party gets out of hand, as does Beverly’s as it moves to its tragi-comic conclusion.
Though still dark, this production seems much funnier. Perhaps familiarity has meant we are less shocked and more prepared to laugh out loud as grotesque Beverly’s hospitality morphs into control, Laurence’s drive becomes his downfall, Tony reveals a darkness beneath his nerdiness, dull Angela proves to be the only one who’s useful when it comes to the crunch and frumpy Susan eventually fights back. It really is deliciously laugh-out-loud funny with an equal measure of cringe-making moments, all impeccably staged by Lindsay Posner (also proving a master of comedy with the current Noises Off revival) on a brilliant period set from Mike Britton – all shades of brown, orange and beige, G-Plan shelf units and leather sofas.
Alison Steadman’s iconic characterisation is a hard act to follow, but Jill Halfpenny’s Beverly is subtly different whilst retaining the essence of the icon; she commands the stage as she does her soiree. Andy Nyman is the perfect foil, his sniping moving to rage as his wife’s put-downs become more open and more outrageous. Joe Absolom’s controlled performance as Tony means his eruptions shake the theatre when they come. Some have said that Natalie Casey is the weak link in the casting but I was pleasantly surprised by her interpretation of Angela. Susannah Harker’s role is in many ways the toughest, but hers too is a beautifully judged performance.
It’s great to see the Menier back on form, packed to the rafters and awash with laughter. I’d be surprised if this isn’t another West End transfer for this lovely powerhouse in Southwark. - Gareth James
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