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Theatre Review: Abigail’s Party

PUBLISHED: 10:00 17 November 2016

Abigail's Party

Abigail's Party

Abbey Theatre

With the possible exception of those of Alan Ayckbourn, there are few plays more beloved of local amateur dramatic groups than Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party.

Combining comedy and nostalgia, it is a popular choice but like all plays it has to be performed well to be showcased at its best.

And, having seen it several times, I can confirm that the Company of Ten performs it very well indeed.

The production has all the laughs you would expect, great comic timing and enough gin and tonics to fuel one of the funniest satires of Middle England ever written.

It is no wonder director Philip Reardon says in his programme notes that he and the cast laughed constantly throughout rehearsals - the audience found plenty to laugh about as well.

The focal character in Abigail’s Party is not the unseen Abigail but the larger-than-life hostess Beverly who has instigated the soiree at her home in 1978 to which she has invited several of her neighbours.

Beverly is a comic masterpiece - a social climber who looks down on her estate agent husband even though it is he who provides the money to allow her to live in the manner to which she is accustomed.

Emily Elfer is perfectly cast as Beverly, a middle class monster from the time she harangues the hapless Lawrence through to her constant flirtation with Tony and bullying of Abigail’s mother Susan.

Her dancing, primarily to Demis Roussos and Tom Jones, is hilarious as she hones in on Tony, the husband of ingenue nurse Angela - a lovely performance from Sara Payne.

As Beverly and Angela get increasingly drunk on the ubiquitous G&Ts, the stilted conversation which marks the start of the play deteriorates even further - to great comic effect.

Michael Llaniog as Tony scowls just the right amount at the outset to set the scene for an uncomfortable evening for the participants and when Mark Coltman’s Lawrence demonstrates that the worm has turned, it is hard not to cheer.

Emma Watson as Susan is a revelation - she bristles with dislike at having to be at the soiree and the constant questioning and inadvertent faux pas made primarily by Angela. The expression on her face throughout the production speaks volumes - no words are necessary but when she does utter them in clipped tones, they are priceless.

The fun the cast and director had while rehearsing Abigail’s Party shines through the production which continues a fine run of productions by the Company of Ten.

Abigail’s Party can be seen on the Abbey Theatre main stage at 8pm from tonight (17) until Saturday (19) and tickets are available from the box office om 01727 857861 or online.

MADELEINE BURTON

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