Reviewed by Jude Featherby
Not only was I lucky to have been able to see and thoroughly enjoy Douglas Rintoul’s version of Abigail’s Party at Derby Theatre, I was also invited to watch the new contemporary version of the 1970s play in a very update and modern version.
After a half an hour interval of 70’s retro vol au vents, cheese and pineapple, Babycham and Cherry B we took our seats for a completely different theatre experience than the one we’d seen previously. The set had been tweaked and instead of the beige settee, there was now a modern red leather sofa, fairy lights instead larvae lamps and the cheap copy of Van Gough had been removed from the wall to be replaced for framed rock and roll.
We find on stage Abi, a fifteen year old school girl preparing for her own house party in 2018. Over 40 years have passed since Abigail was having her own party and we are on a very personal journey with Abi as we find out the story of her life and of her grandmothers Abigail.
Directed by Derby Theatres own Chief Executive Sarah Brigham she directs a stunning solo performance by Safiyya Ingar.
You’ve got to have the right people, music and food to throw a good party she tells us as she prepares for her own and dances quite happily and maybe a Iittle seductively for a 15 year old. So what’s happened over the modern years? Well Abi is certainly a free spirit and has the genes of her grandmother Abigail and so much love for her also. Although sadly she doesn’t feel the same way for her mother Patti, who we are told has no emotional connection with either her mother or daughter and feels the “fun” personality has skipped a generation. Abigail has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and Abi misses the relationship she has with her while in hospital. She seeks comfort and conversation in a modern-day relationship with Luke who she’s been chatting to on her phone for the past weeks. Abi is persistent that Luke totally understands her and isn’t like the other boys at her school. They want to keep their identities secret from one another until the special time when they meet!
The play has subtle differences from the 70’s the instant music of the iPhone to the 78 deck for one but writer Atiha Sen Gupta tackles harder issues of racism, equality and every parents fear of internet grooming.
It is a play Safiy ya Ingar completely and compellingly owns on her Abi roller coaster ride of emotion. A well-deserved standing ovation for everyone who were involved shining light for us on so many unanswered questions and such a brilliant idea.
Thank you Derby Theatre for your wonderful hospitality and bringing two sublime plays to our local theatre.
Tickets cost from £10 (booking fees may apply).
Abi is at Derby Theatre from 29 September to 20 October 2018, for more information or book tickets visit www.derbytheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01332 593939.
Derby Theatre, 15 Theatre Walk, St Peter’s Quarter, Derby, DE1 2NF | 01332 593939