Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Review: Abigail's Party at the Leicester Curve Theatre

Abigail's Party
Leicester Curve Theatre (Studio)
Reviewed on Tuesday 21st October 2014

One of my absolute all-time favourite plays, Abigail's Party is a dark comedy set in the seventies. Mike Leigh's play, which premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in 1977, is set in the home of Beverly and Laurence on the night they invite over their new neighbours, Tony and Ange. The guest list is completed by Sue, whose daughter Abigail is having a party down the street.

Natalie Thomas as Beverly
Leigh's writing is spectacularly funny. Despite having seen the piece many times before, I found myself howling with laughter all evening. The one-liners are all brilliant and the awkward situation paves way for countless moments of comical genius. However, Abigail's Party is far from light-hearted, as underneath the alcohol and nibbles lies jealousy and marital troubles. 

Although the vision behind Suba Sas' production is superb, personally I feel it favours easy laughs over emotional depth. Beverly and Laurence clearly have big problems, but this time around I struggled to believe their relationship at all. The play also doesn't need cheesy and forced comical moments as the text is funny and contains so much opportunity for the comedy to become naturally psychical (there is no need for forced and clearly choreographed movements).

Natalie Thomas and Patrick Moy make a particularly young Beverly and Laurence. Their performances are full on, with both actors giving their all. It has never taken me so long to warm to Beverly before, usually I fall in love with the character from the moment she steps foot on stage and secretly wish she was my best friend. It wasn't until Angela (played wonderfully by Emily Head) entered that I warmed to Thomas' over the top portrayal of Beverly.

The performance of the night comes from Cary Crankson as Tony. The character rarely utters a word, but each time Crankson said a line he had the audience in hysterics. Jackie Morrison also shines as Sue; I sometimes find the character a little annoying, but fell in love with Morrison's performance. 

Emily Head as Angela and Cary Crankson as Tony

Performed in the studio space, this production marks the first time a show has been staged in the round at the Curve. David Woodhead's design looks incredible, but there are times when cast members sit on the same spot for a considerable length of time, and there is nothing worse than being forced to watch 'back-of-head' acting. Nevertheless, this layout works for Abigail's Party; you really feel as if you are peering into their evening as it spirals out of control. 

Abigail's Party is a sensational play and, although I didn't love every element of this production, I would still highly recommend booking tickets. I don't think I will ever grow tired of seeing Abigail's Party time and time again; it bursts with irresistible charm and is so much more than your average comedy. It is always an utter delight to spend an evening at the Curve which is fast becoming my favourite theatre. The quality of the productions it produces is astounding, with Abigail’s Party proving to be no exception. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Abigail's Party runs at the Leicester Curve Theatre until Saturday 8th November 2014.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

No comments:

Post a Comment