Abigail's Party

A riotous romp worthy of a West End stage!"

Having seen a London Classic Theatre production last year (Boeing Boeing), I was confident that their next offering, Abigail’s Party would be a great show, however it exceeded my expectations and turned out to be an hilarious evening, that left me wanting more.

The 1977 film Abigail’s Party famously starred a relatively unknown actress, Alison Steadman, who of course has gone on to be one of our best loved performers, and after seeing the show I did wonder whether her character Beverly was the basis for the wonderful Pamela in Gavin & Stacey as there were so many similarities in the characterisation.

The story is set in the 1970’s at a house party held by the exuberant and bubbly Beverly (Rebecca Birch) and her workaholic husband Laurence (Tom Richardson). The play opens on Beverly floating around her front room in a long flowing dress, pouring herself a drink, lighting a cigarette, placing plates of nibbles on the table and dancing to the Donna Summer classic ‘Love To Love You Baby’.  Every inch of the staging by Bek Palmer screamed the 1970’s, with plenty of walnut furniture, record player, and beige leather suite. 

Beverly was instantly captivating and her energy infectious.  Rebecca Birch was faultless in her portrayal throughout the production bringing this suburban housewife to life, slowly becoming more and more inebriated and showing her flirtatious side with new neighbour Tony (George Readshaw).  The relationship between Beverly and Laurence was fraught and there was many a snipe here and there in the company of their guests, but it was all about keeping up appearances so these were glossed over.

New neighbours Angela (Alice De-Warrenne) and Tony (George Readshaw) arrive for the evenings entertainment and are instantly thrust into the intoxicating world of Beverly and her attempt to throw a fabulous party.  Alice De-Warrenne provided many of the comedic moments throughout the show, with her almost ditzy demeanour. You couldn’t help but love her instantly and she was the standout performer for me.  Her husband on the other hand was a man of very little words and George Readshaw was perfect in his dismissive performance of someone who really did not want to be there, that was of course until he had the opportunity to ‘slow dance’ with Beverly!

Completing the party was neighbour Susan (Jo Castleton), the mother of Abigail who was throwing a party and needed to be out of the way.  She was very much on edge throughout the evening wondering what her teenage daughter was up to.  Susan was every inch the worried mother and divorcee who arrives without lining her stomach not expecting to be so well supplied with endless glasses of gin and tonic from the hostess.  The slightly upper crust and well-spoken character was played wonderfully by Castleton.

The alcohol flowed, the house party becomes more intense with both married couples exchanging words, however Beverly still wanted nothing more than to be the life and soul of the party.  The very talented cast of 5 provided such fantastic performances and despite the sombre ending, which also had an element of comedy about it, I absolutely wanted an invite to that party by the end of the night. 

This show is a riotous romp worthy of a West End stage.  It was simple in its staging with just the one set, but the cast were all so investable, it made for a wonderful evening that had great pace and never slowed.  Writer Mike Leigh was able to capture the essence of a lonely, frustrated 1970’s housewife so well and I really do hope this show reappears again at some time in the future.

This show was reviewed at the Festival Theatre in Malvern where it runs until the 8th July 2023.  Tickets available here: Abigail's Party - Malvern Theatres (malvern-theatres.co.uk)

Abigail’s Party continues to tour across the UK until October 2023.  Full tour details can be found here: Abigail’s Party « London Classic Theatre

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Photo credit: Sheila Burnett

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