There are plenty of laughs to be had in the production of Abigail’s Party which finishes an extensive UK tour this week at the King’s.
This touring production of Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party opts for comedy rather than tragicomedy at the Opera House Manchester, losing a little depth in order to find more laughs.
This role was famously played by the inimitable Alison Steadman in the original, and whilst these are gold heels which are impossible to fill, Jodie Prenger is excellent as Beverly.
Mike Leigh’s classic Abigail’s Party is back in the theatre with its irrepressible hostess, Beverly Moss, handing out gin and tonics and cheesy-pineapple nibbles to the sounds of Demis Roussos.
Intense and painfully funny, Mike Leigh’s classic comedy is given a new lease of life in this engaging and lively production directed by Sarah Esdaile that keeps the audience thoroughly engaged and entertained from start to finish.
I am old enough to have seen the original televised play for today of Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party in 1977 and have loved it ever since. Therefore, I was really looking forward to seeing Sarah Esdaile’s adaptation of this iconic piece and I wasn’t disappointed.
Mike Leigh’s genius was to offer Abigail’s Party to audiences who roared with laughter without recognising themselves on the stage. Julie Burchill and Jane Robins may have pulled off the same trick with People Like Us.
Mike Leigh’s 1977 play Abigail’s Party is sure to be considered a British classic. And as it is set in Romford, it makes great sense for Douglas Rintoul to stage it at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch.
Atiha Sen Gupta’s Abi, a 60-minute monologue, performed with enormous zest and attractive energy by Safiyya Ingar, is a response to Mike Leigh’s play Abigail’s Party and looks at what happened to a couple of his peripheral characters.
At Hornchurch, artistic director Douglas Rintoul seems to have gone for the faithful-to-the-first-production approach: for example, Melanie Gutteridge’s Beverly is a neatly dutiful homage to Alison Steadman.
Abigail’s Party was quite ground-breaking in its day, with the incomparable Mike Leigh at the helm and Alison Steadman heading up the cast as Beverly, it made waves on screen and on stage. The production that is currently on UK tour keeps to the essentials that are familiar to those who have encountered the show before.
“It was a part of my growing up, I watched it when I was quite young and it was always my benchmark, I wanted to be an actress because of that play.”
Strains of Donna Summer and Demis Roussos on the turntable, flock wallpaper and a retro bar, can only be setting the scene for Mike Leigh’s classic piece, Abigail’s Party. Devised and directed by Mike Leigh in 1977, the television incarnation starred Alison Steadman as nightmare hostess, Beverly and is an iconic masterpiece.
Cherished by am-dram, revived by excellent casts and theatres, it tours to keen houses and gales of laughter. Yet Mike Leigh’s most famous (and not typical) play is cold-hearted, snobbish, misogynistic and dated.
Theatre Royal Bath has today released production photography of the 40th anniversary, West End-bound production of Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party starring Amanda Abbington.