Company of Ten presenting Abigail’s Party as next production

Abigail's Party

Abigail's Party - Credit: Archant

A trip back to the 1970s beckons for audiences of the next Company of Ten production, Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party.

Abigail's Party

Abigail's Party - Credit: Archant

One of the best loved comedies of the time, it was devised by the cast developing their characters and the story through improvisation.

The play opened at the Hampstead Theatre in 1977 and starred Alison Steadman who was married to Mike Leigh at the time. It was so popular it ran for 104 performances. before being famously televised as a Play For Today at the BBC.

Beverly, an ex-department store cosmetics demonstrator, is married to Laurence, a successful but overworked estate agent. They are part of the new suburban middle class, flush with money and pretensions of grandeur. They invite their new neighbours Angela, a nurse, and Tony a computer operator, over for drinks. They also ask Susan from next door, a divorcee, whose 15-year-old daughter, Abigail, who is never seen, is having a party.

The evening starts in a stiff, British middle class way, as they are all virtual strangers, but Laurence is late home, and from the start Beverly undermines him. Determined to better himself, Laurence is keen to show off what he thinks is his cultural side with his choice of literature and music, even to the point of being condescending to the less successful, and rather repressed, Tony.

Beverly on the other hand, has a taste for the kitsch and after a few drinks, and with no inhibitions, she forces her guests to drink and smoke far more than they want. In turn, she snipes at Laurence while flirting shamelessly with Tony, and their guests start to show themselves in their true colours.

As the alcohol takes effect, the audience gets a fly-on-the-wall view of a relentlessly uncomfortable parade of strained relationships and awkward social situations, culminating in a shocking, though painfully funny, denoument.

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Director Philip Reardon said rehearsals had been great fun. “I often found it hard to stifle my laughter long enough to give coherent feedback.”

Performances are on the main stage of the Abbey Theatre at Westminster Lodge, St Albans, at 8pm from next Friday and Saturday, November 11 and 12, and from Tuesday, November 15, to Saturday, November 19. There is also a matinee on at 2.30pm on Sunday, November 13, and an audio-described performance on Thursday, November 17.

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