Invitation to Abigail’s Party
Abigail’s Party The Lowry, Salford
Let’s party like it’s 1977 – with this pretty faithful re-creation of Mike Leigh’s seminal play given one of the most authentic stage revivals seen in some time.
It’s a brave production company that takes it on, given the iconic status the TV play – and particularly Alison Steadman’s portrayal of neighbour-from-hell Beverley – achieved 36 years ago.
But Leigh’s play was developed and conceived for the stage, and since he was also born in Salford, this new production is a double homecoming.
It certainly feels right at home in designer Mike Britton’s eerily-realistic G-Plan setting of 13 Richmond Road, Somewhere in Essex, with teenager Abigail’s party in full swing next door, while the ‘grown-ups’ gather for a neighbourly drink.
Pomagne, cheese and pineapple are the height of sophistication and the world smells of Youth Dew. What could go wrong?
As if to remind us what’s round the corner, director Lindsay Posner plays out the final curtain to the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy In The UK. That apart, this is almost step for step, breath for breath, true to the original, though Posner’s deft production does allow his cast to ‘break out’ occasionally with a necessary degree of over-acting for stage performance. These are cartoon characters after all!
Hannah Waterman inhabits the central role and comes as close as anyone to the awful allure of the modern-day Gorgon. Samuel James is an even more taciturn Tony than John Salthouse’s original, and your heart goes out to Martin Marquez as the cuckolded husband Laurence.
This Party still has enough comic energy to make you smile, and squirm, simultaneously.
by David Upton