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Abigail's Party at the Richmond Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 14th Mar 2013 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

Abigail 1.jpg 
Katie Lightfoot, Hannah Waterman, Martin Marquez and Emily Raymond.

Mind you, Ange, your house is smaller than this one, yeah, because I know they are smaller on your side, yeah.

Mike Leigh's play on suburban neuroses premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in 1977 and was an instant smash hit. Suburbia has been used by many writers as a setting for their plays, Alan Ayckborn for one, but in Leigh's play the setting is the driving and destructive force, it wouldn't work anywhere else. Leigh described the new middle-class in 1970s Britain - materialistic and bourgeois. Though considered a period piece, this play is as relevant now as it was 36 years ago.

Director Lindsay Posner leaves the action in the 1970s - the set is held in warm brown and orange colours. Beverly and Laurence are expecting their new neighbours for welcoming drinks. Their old friend Susan, the divorced wife of an architect, is going to join, too, as soon as she has organised everything for the party of her teenage daughter Abigail. Laurence is an estate-agent and considers himself more cultured and educated than most people, certainly than his wife, who used to work as a beauty consultant and oozes self-confidence from every pore. Beverly looks with great pride upon her big house and all her belongings, and she is sure to let people know how she feels, including Angela and Tony. Angela is a nurse in Walthamstow and very talkative - in stark contrast to her rather monosyllabic husband Tony who works shifts as an IT operator. Beverly can't help but take the seemingly naive Angela under her wing immediately by providing some life-saving beauty tips that Angela obviously is in dire need of.

Abilgail 2.jpg
Hannah Waterman

Beverly dominates the evening. After putting Angela in her place, she proceeds to fill up Susan's glass with G&T until she becomes sick. Laurence is interrupted continuously and treated in a demeaning way. However, Laurence knows that his intelligence is superior to Beverly's who exclaims, when Sue brings a bottle of red wine as a present, "Beaujolais? Fantastic! I'll pop it in the fridge." After all, Laurence owns Shakespeare's complete works and knows his Dickens. He considers handing one of Dickens' novels to Susan so she can read a few sentences an act of boundless generosity. Susan is more interested in what is going on at her daughter's party and Beverly does nothing to calm her down. Instead she invents horror scenarios of all the things that might go wrong and then attempts to seduce Tony in front of Laurence, dancing with him in a very sensual way. 

Mike Leigh describes the shallow materialism and lack of concern for others spot on. Caged in an unsatisfying marriage, Beverly tries to find her fulfillment elsewhere - her status as a home owner and the occasional flirt. She loves Laurence in her "own way" which means that it is fine to bulldoze over him in front of their scandalised guests. Hannah Waterman is excellent as the seemingly obnoxious but unhappy Beverly. Martin Marquez convinces as the long suffering husband who loves Beethoven and art but has to cope with Demis Roussos and kitschy paintings in his bedroom. Katie Lightfoot and Samuel James are very good as the young couple who might end up like Beverly and Laurence one day. Emily Raymond conveys the bewilderment and helpnessness of Susan who finds herself caught up in perfect mayhem.

This is a satirical comedy with a message and a lot of fun!

By Carolin Kopplin
Until 16 March 2013 at the Richmond Theatre, then touring.

Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1QJ
1 - 6 April 2013 at Theatre Royal Brighton
13 - 18 May 2013 Milton Keynes Theatre 



  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Thanks, Carolin. This really has become a classic period piece in our own lifetime! Well, in my lifetime, anyway!
  • Carolin Kopplin
    by Carolin Kopplin 5 years ago
    I have relatives who behave like that so ...
  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
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