Abigail's Party - Aylesbury Waterside Theatre (atgtickets.com)
Ever and Ever,
Forever and Ever
....’ sung by Demis Roussos will irrevocably be linked with
the character of Bev in the 1977 play Abigail’s
Party
.  Created by Alison Steadman,
the monstrous Bev (with the accent rather
like a hacksaw cutting through metal that sets your teeth on edge) gave us an
unforgettable scene dancing around the room with a cigarette and glass in her
hands to the sounds of the Greek superstar of the time.  You may not remember everything that happens
in the play, but chances are if you think about Abigail’s Party that’s what will spring to mind.


Alison Steadman was married to Mike Leigh in 1977 and he is
attributed as the author of Abigail’s
Party
.  What we know from his film
work though, is that he works collaboratively with the actors and I have no
doubt that the original cast developed their characters and dialogue as
rehearsals progressed.  The final play
has become one of Britain’s most celebrated comedies and is seen as a classic
reminder of a time when aspirations to move above their working class roots to
become middle class and successful, drove people to want more from life.


The premise of Abigail’s Party is that Beverley and Lawrence are
hosting a party for their newlywed neighbours, Tony and Angela.  They’re joined by highly strung Sue whose 15 year old daughter Abigail is throwing her own party and
has banished her mum.  With a heady mix
of cocktails, classic disco tracks and cheese and pineapple sticks, Bev has set the scene for a
sophisticated evening with her neighbours. 
As tensions arise between the couples, tempers flare and the carefully
constructed illusions are dismantled with hilarious and potentially disastrous
consequences.


 What’s really great
about this production directed by Sarah Esdaile is that they give the audience
exactly what they want, a reproduction of the original cast.  Jodie Prenger is superb as Beverly, emulating the moves and vocal
intonations of Alison Steadman to a tee. 
She is hysterical when she puts her shoulders back, pushes out her chest
and sails around the room, pronouncing her own special theories along the way ‘d’you know what I mean, Sue?’ Failing miserably
to keep Bev under control in front of
their guests, is her long-suffering husband Lawrence,
played by Daniel Casey (DS Gavin Troy
in Midsummer Murders).


Vicky Binns (best known for her roles in Coronation Street and Emmerdale) is Angela who is the perfect foil, developing into a mini version of Bev as she loosens up with the help of
several glasses of alcohol.  Rose Keegan
is very funny as Sue who responds to
everything with minimal words or expression.  Callum Callaghan as Angela’s new husband Tony
has great comic timing using pauses before delivering a one word line to great
effect.  At first he seems a nice man,
but we soon discover that all is not quite what it seems.


With a great cast and a clever set that brings to life the Kitchness
of suburban life in 1970s Britain, with references that would now be considered
unacceptable, it’s a slice of life that we can laugh at with fondness and disbelief.

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

19.3.19

@yvonnedelahaye