Abigail’s Party Review

Richmond Theatre Mon 24th – Sat 29th.  Reviewed By Jessica Brady

It’s been 40 years since the Original production of ‘Abigail’s Party’ at the Hampstead Theatre and what better way to mark the occasion than with a revival of a situation comedy classic.

Walking into the Richmond Theatre auditorium we are immediately greeted with a brick wall and window looking into a 70s middle class home. As the show begins the full scale of the wooden panelled walls, gaudy curtains and outrageously patterned everything is exposed as the brick wall lifts up revealing our setting for this awkward night about to ensue.

Beverly (Amanda Abbington) casually saunters through from the kitchen placing the familiar foil covered ball of pineapple and cheese on sticks and makes her way over to the stereo, pulling out the LP and placing the pin down onto it. ‘Love to Love you Baby’ filters in and we soon get the measure of Beverly as she sways around her living room in her flowing Bardot shouldered long white dress and perfectly quaffed blond hair.

The gin and tonics begin to flow and Laurence (Ben Caplan) enters. The tone of their troubled relationship can be sensed from the first interaction of the characters as Laurence continually ignores the clearly irritable Beverly. As the new neighbours Angela (Charlotte Mills) and Tony (Ciarán Owens) arrive for the casual ‘Welcome to the neighbourhood’ drinks, Beverly is quick to make her status known to the pair essentially flaunting her flashy Essex home to a less affluent pair in her own special way. The recently divorced and nervous Susan (Rose Keegan) joins the couples after she is shooed off from the escalating party being held by her daughter Abigail, at her house.

The drinks are continuously poured and topped up after almost every sip for the guests and the evening becomes gradually more bizarre,drunk and uncomfortable. Beverly’s outrageous flirtation with Tony, Susan’s distain for the company she is with, Laurence’s continuous disregard for Beverly and lame attempts at revenge flirting with Susan and Angela’s mindless chatter results in some very funny moments to watch.

Abbington does a fantastic portrayal of a woman in a clearly loveless marriage and really revels in the gloriously hideous characteristics that Beverly possesses. I found her mesmerising to watch as she flaunted her sexual and dominating presence amongst the guests and she really nails the comedic style this play has.

Caplan is laugh out loud funny as Laurence and his characterisation of a bumbling bitter husband is something that drives the play forward for me as well as his dark turns which are executed with real force and gravitas making you take a breath wondering what he will do next.

I found Keegan’s portrayal of Susan a little off as I felt she didn’t show diverse ways of her characters uncomfortable attitude to the many questions directed to her and her lines were often delivered in the exact same way which didn’t really take me on the journey with her. This had me distracted as to why Susan was taken in this direction and feeling underwhelmed with a character which is very complex and consequently Susan’s outburst at the end was also lacklustre leaving me disappointed.

That being said, the set was spot on with every detail covered and making you really feel like you were part of this 70’s throw back, from the cushions to the soda jet and the jazzy fibre optic space lamp on display. The music and costumes were on point and transported you back to a time when patterns and an extensive liquor cabinet were the height of sophistication.

Although this play isn’t one of my favourite plays, there were lots of parts that I enjoyed and appreciated and is a great way to celebrate a 40 year anniversary of a clearly loved classic. If you want a bit of 70’s nostalgia and giggle then Abigail’s Party is the play for you.