Based on the play written by Mike Leigh in 1977, the production centres around a cocktail party at a neighbour‘s house, where Abigail’s party is happening next door.
Attending the party are two couples who are three years into married life, Beverly and Laurence, who are the hosts, along with Angela and Tony who have recently moved to the neighbourhood. Sue, Abigail’s mother, who is a divorcee who was married for 13 years, has also been invited to attend. ‘
Anyone who has attended a drinks party with a selection of guests who you do not really know or get on with, will appreciate the atmosphere of the evening. The cocktail party gradually becomes more excruciatingly awkward as the play gradually reveals the flaws in the relationships of the guests. The hostess, Beverley (Jodie Prenger), is a dominant character who constantly provides commentary and uninvited opinion on the evening’s events, hence bullying her guests and husband Lawrence (Daniel Casey), whilst appearing to be delightful and welcoming. Angela constantly overrules Sue’s decision that she has had enough to drink and therefore does not require a top up and Angela’s and Tony’s refusal to smoke.
The play is certainly of its era, the decor and costumes of the actors represent the late 1970’s and will be familiar to those who lived at this time. The first half is long and, at times, can be slow as you start to warm to the characters and begin to feel sympathy for how they are forced into their roles in their relationships, due to expectation of society and those in the play.
The cast is well balanced overall, with good performances all round. The quiet strength of Angela (Vicky Binns) is revealed at the end of the play as she comes into her own. The play uses a few standard cliches, and doesn’t charm all the time. There is a dramatic finale, but overall, the play is a good evening’s entertainment but does not place any demands on the audience other that that you’re kind of a fan of the genre in which it sits.
Abigail’s Party is running at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking until 2nd March 2019.