Abigail’s Party comes to St Albans’ Abbey Theatre

Abigail's Party

Abigail's Party - Credit: Archant

A decade of change is the backcloth of Abigail’s Party, which the Company of Ten is performing at the Abbey Theatre from tomorrow. (11)

It was devised for stage and television by Mike Leigh in 1977, and is a suburban situation comedy of manners and a satire on the aspirations and tastes of the new middle class that emerged in Britain in the 1970s.

It was a time when the growth of middle management allowed ordinary working people to buy their own homes on fast-growing housing estates as well as discovering package holidays and going abroad for the first time.

It was also the decade of strikes and blackouts, sterling being replaced by decimalisation and Margaret Thatcher becoming the first female Prime Minister.

While young Abigail is holding her first teenage party two doors down, Beverly and her husband Laurence are hosting a drinks party, ostensibly for their new neighbours Angela and Tony, but they have also invited Abigail’s mum, Sue, a divorcee.

The hosts are cash rich, and Beverly, in particular is keen to demonstrate it. Drinks, cigarettes and bonhomie are flowing, except towards her husband, who has come home too late to help.

For Emly Elfer, rehearsing the role of Beverly has been a dream come true. “She is the hostess with the mostess, and is determined to have all her guests doing exactly what she wants them to do, from accepting copious amouns of alcohol, to dancing around the living room to her choice of music. Beverly’s phrases, such as, ‘Do you know what I mean?’ and ‘Let me put it to you this way,’ have crept into my every day conversations over the past weeks. She’s a contagious character.”

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Emma Watson takes on the role of Sue, Abigail’s mother, whom she describes as the character the audience is most likely to identify with . She went on: “She is quite old school middle class and while she might claim to approve of a mix of social backgrounds living side by side, the reality of spending time with them is not something she finds remotely enjoyable. Sue might not say much, but her thoughts come through loud and clear.”

As to Michael Llaniog, who plays Tony, he believes the characters’ choice of music is crucial to understanding them. “The musical differences between Laurence and Beverly gives us an insight into their class, values and aspirations. Laurence likes classical music, which he sees as a sign of success and the conservative upper class. Beverly prefers the smoother more liberal tones of Demis Roussos.”

Performances take place on the Abbey Theatre Main Stage at 8pm tomorrow (11) and on Saturday (12) and from next Tuesday, November 15, to Saturday, November 19. There is also a matinee at 2.30pm this Sunday (13).

To book tickets click here or call the box office on 01727 857861.