Review of the Show
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SPOT-ON performances ensured that New Forest Players’ interpretation of the 1977 Mike Leigh play “Abigail’s Party” was as funny and entertaining as the original.
Written for stage and television, the work is a suburban situation comedy of manners and a satire on the aspirations and tastes of the British middle class in the 1970’s.
Carol Catton perfectly embodied the character of party hostess Beverly Moss, memorably played by Alison Steadman in the original, who is constantly trying to impress her guests, with cringeworthy and hilarious results.
Some of the best bits were when she started dancing, first solo, to the embarrassment of her guests, and then with Tony Cooper – played by Chris March. After flirting outrageously with him throughout the party they end up drunk and slow-dancing, which becomes increasingly heated, much to the audience’s amusement.
Tony is an ex-professional footballer turned computer operator and March delivered a well-observed performance of his quiet – but throughout the play increasingly irritated – nature. He gives mostly one-word answers and aggressive chides towards his naïve and sometimes tactless wife Angela.
Sandi Cox, in her debut with the Players, perfectly conveyed Angela’s childish nature, delivering some fantastically funny dialogue. Her performance was such that you would not have known she was relatively new to amateur dramatics.
Beverly’s stressed, estate agent husband Laurence, well played by John Tickner and divorcee neighbour Susan Lawson (Anne Marie Stone) are particular targets for Beverly’s comments. Tickner was brilliant as bag-of-nerves Laurence who tries to compete with Beverly; as was Stone as the quiet, plainly-dressed mother who does not really want to be at the party but is too meek to say no.
Her teenage daughter Abigail is holding a party at their home while she is out, which she is very anxious about. The ongoing party is used to good effect, with the occasional audible blast of 1970’s music during the play.
The first half ambled along enjoyably, setting the scene and developing the characters. The party is held in Beverly and Laurence’s home and the set and furniture were true to the time, including a red leather suite and a lava lamp.
The second half descends into drunken pandemonium – the women getting more intoxicated and the men disappearing to “check” everything is OK at Abigail’s party, with Tony reappearing drunk, dishevelled and soaking wet but saying everything was fine.
Susan vomits from drinking on an empty stomach and in the end it is long suffering Laurence who pays the ultimate price when he has a fatal heart attack. Angela comes into her own, using her nursing training to try and resuscitate him.
Direction by Sonia Collyer was faultless – with the smooth timing of the extensive dialogue, one-liners and character placement around the stage all coming together to provide a professional and highly enjoyable evening