Partying with Abigail in ’70s style

PUBLISHED: 17:22 23 July 2008 | UPDATED: 17:30 16 August 2010

SMOKING: Sarah Hills as Beverly.

SMOKING: Sarah Hills as Beverly.

A POPULAR return of Mike Leigh s classic 1977 drama Abigail s Party made a welcome return to the Edward Alderton Theatre, writes Steve Spencer.

A POPULAR return of Mike Leigh's classic 1977 drama Abigail's Party made a welcome return to the Edward Alderton Theatre, writes Steve Spencer.

Directed by Mark Campbell, the play focuses on the awkward social gathering at the north London home of Beverly and Laurence with neighbours, Angela, husband Tony and Susan, whose daughter Abigail is throwing her own party.

As the evening unfolds we witness banal and excruciating exchanges, leading to nasty, vicious snipes between the five over their conflicting values, beliefs and aspirations.

The inevitable tragi-comic climax is almost absurd: Laurence has a heart attack, Angela hops around with cramp in her leg and Susan desperately tries to telephone Abigail whilst a scratchy Beethoven symphony plays away.

The well-designed (and accurately furnished) set of Beverly and Laurence's sitting room successfully illustrated their pretentious position on the social ladder.

There were enough distractions here if you couldn't face watching Beverly's graceless behaviour and Angela's acquiescence to each and every word her hostess uttered!

The costumes were well chosen and complemented the mood of the evening and special mention has to be made to the team who created and managed the sound perfectly.

Sarah Hills sashayed around the stage dominating the social gathering but played a rather understated Beverly and I would have relished a more grotesque and exaggerated portrayal which might have left me cringing with embarrassment.

Nevertheless, she was well matched by Ian Long playing her husband Laurence, whose brooding impatience and seething tension were palpable.

Making her debut with the company, Samantha Griggs provided a suitably gauche and socially inept Angela.

Matt Clowry was again well-cast as Tony, Angela's solid husband whose angry (and violent) frustration at his wife's lack of social skills was just about kept in check.

Linda Gay played a suitably aloof middle-class Susan, the neighbour who is out of place with this quartet of social misfits.

Well done to cast and crew on an enjoyable evening which has been a welcome reminder why cheese and pineapple cubes, olives and Jose Feliciano have been relegated to the great party in the sky!

* The next show at the Edward Alderton Theatre is The Graduate by Terry Johnson from 4-11 October. Tickets: 020 8301 5584.

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