Reviewed by Jude Featherby
An evening of seventies retro drama was set right from the start with large brown, tan and beige flocked patterned wallpaper and matching larvae lamp in the background to full fill the scene of Mike Leigh’s iconic play “Abigail’s Party” which has arrived at the wonderful and welcoming Derby Theatre for their big autumn production.
We were transported to middle class, suburban Romford and Baccara is on the turn table telling us “Yes sir I can boogie.“
Beverly and Laurence have invited their new neighbours Tony and Angela over to theirs for a drinks and nibbles soirée. They’ve also invited their friend and neighbour meek and mild divorcee Susan while her 15-year-old daughter Abigail, parties hard at home next door.
Right from the beginning you are under no illusion that the two couples seem a little mismatched to say the least but as the gin, Bacardi and conversation start flowing faster and faster, you are caught up in a situation between them all and holding your breath before it completely spirals out of control.
Melanie Gutteridge plays Beverly wonderfully, caring really only for herself though in your heart you feel sympathy as she craves love and not just her husband Laurence’s money played by Christopher Staines a fantastic stressed and exasperated portrayal.
Ditsy Amy Downham’s character Angela makes you smile with her innocence and her husband Tony played by Liam Bergin has a side of mistrust within him.
There are many magic moments of comedy genius within the play, but at times it is on the edge of darkness too as is so often in life the saying “never knowing what goes on behind closed doors” is very much shown in Abigail’s Party. And if you’ve not seen the original an unexpected twist at the end but no spoilers from me!
Directed by Douglas Rintoul, he has kept it very true to the seventies original play superbly as has Lee Newby with his excellent set design.
A brilliant night of retro entertainment and a roller coaster of emotions co-produced by Derby Theatre, Queens Theatre Hornchurch, Wiltshire Creative and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg. I would certainly recommend a ticket purchase from Derby Theatre box office before “The Party” moves on.
Tickets cost from £9.50 to £26.50 (booking fees may apply).
Abigail’s Party is at Derby from 26 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