Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch
Reviewed – 6th September 2018
“a lively revival”
The yellow heavily-patterned wallpaper, the orange lava lamp and beige leather sofas create Lee Newby’s wonderful set, dragged straight out of the seventies.
Beverly puts a record on, pours herself a drink, lights a cigarette and begins to dance. She is having a party, the neighbours are coming round. But Abigail, Susan’s fifteen year old daughter, is also having a party next door. This is the opening to Mike Leigh’s ‘Abigail’s Party’ which was first written in 1977, and considers class, relationships and the culture of suburbia. Certainly some topical points of discussion in today’s society, though these contemporary parallels could be more heavily delved into. The production hints at these more poignant moments, but shies away from truly exploring them. Ivan Stott’s sound design has the familiar seventies records which punctuate the play underscored with a throbbing base from next door, a consistent reminder of the speed with which culture changes.
There isn’t a weak link across the cast. Amy Downham’s Angela is lively, warm and vivid, with fantastic comic timing. Susie Emmett as Susan is a lovely presence on stage, grounded and subtle in her performance. Melanie Gutteridge plays the overbearing Beverly, topping up everyone’s glasses and dancing too close to Tony (Liam Bergin) as she insists on another record. Bergin’s Tony feels slightly uncertain, a harmless, comic presence initially that makes the later revelations about his character less convincing, or perhaps the dichotomy isn’t pushed far enough. Some of the strongest moments come as the company sits in silence together, shuffling awkwardly, a strong comic motif of the production.
Towards the second half of the play, there begins a tendency toward the farcical which makes the ending feel slightly confused, neither emotionally impactful nor overly funny. The shock effect is not felt in the way it should be, and the reactions to the situation feel somewhat ingenuine.
This is a lively revival of Mike Leigh’s classic, supported by strong performances but in need of a more impactful finale.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Mark Sepple
Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch until 22nd September
Abi, a contemporary response to Abigail’s Party by Atiha Sen Gupta is running alongside Abigail’s Party – review here
Previously reviewed at this venue: