Rebecca Birch as Beverly, George Readshaw as Tony – Photo by Sheila Burnett
By Charlotte Ndupuechi
Dark, funny and a joy to watch. Like a time capsule from the 1970s with an intriguing, yet uncomfortable reflection on relationships and class in British society.
Abigail‘s Party tells the story of married couple Beverly and Laurence, as they host a party in their suburban living room for their neighbours. Laurence is wound up from the second he walks in, being late from work. The pressures of trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ are clear from the start.
Their guests are Angela and her husband Tony, and neighbour Sue. Sue has agreed to let her 15-year-old daughter Abigail have a party next-door, and so is seeking refuge for the evening. This is clearly not the place Sue would normally spend her time or the company she would choose to keep, as much as Laurence tries to form a connection. She brings wine and hasn’t had her ‘tea’ yet like the others. Maybe assuming she was coming to a dinner party. She lives in one of the older houses and was married to an architect. And much to the delight of Laurence, she likes olives. Hinting at her more middle-class status.
The play is stripped back to the key essentials. There are no scene changes, no flashing lights, or special effects. This is all about great writing and character development. The cast did a wonderful job in performing these roles. Rebecca Birch as the iconic Beverly in an amazing dress and Tom Richardson as Laurence had you drawn in from the start.
Tony, played by George Readshaw, and Jo Castleton as Sue were just what you wanted from the characters. I really did enjoy the performance from Alice-De-Warrenne as Angela. This is often a weaker role, but I felt she gave an excellent performance and made every push of her glasses and hula-hoop crisp placed on her fingers an extra something.
As the alcohol flows and the ‘nibbles’ are eaten, social manners go out the window. The records come out and the flirting from Beverly towards Tony increases, and as much as she tries to push herself, often with quite bullying behaviour, she also leaves herself exposed as vulnerable and insecure. Tony seems quite happy to lap up the affection from Beverly, but also stands up to Laurence when he is rude to his wife Angela.
Although Angela seems weak and timid at first, her character shows strength and the reliability of an experienced working nurse when needed. The complex nature of each person means you can both love them and hate them at the same time.
The set is almost like another character and is so important to the story and this production did not disappoint. The fully fitted carpets, the silver plated candelabra, the new table, the three-piece suite. The set and costumes were spot on.
Such a joy to watch, I wanted to get up and join the party. This is a must see.
Abigail’s Party runs until Saturday 4 March, Recommended age: 14+ (contains strong language). For more information or to book tickets visit www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk or call 01962 840 440.
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