USER (29Aug03): ABIGAIL’S PARTY by Mike Leigh
BIRMINGHAM REP, 28th AUGUST 2003
Theatre Royal Bath and Hampstead Theatre Productions are to be congratulated on their splendid touring version of the Mike Leigh classic. It may be embarrassing to watch but it is timeless and the timing could not have been better as The Radio Times have just published their 40 TV Greats and alphabetically in number 1 position is none other than ‘Abigail’s Party’. Whilst most who have seen this television masterpiece will remember the dreadful Beverly played so wonderfully by Alison Steadman the stage version is simply superb. I haven’t had such an amusing evening out for a long time and everyone else thought the same.
A full house and this is frequently the case at The Rep sat laughing, giggling and looking sometimes in disbelief as the excellent cast of Lizzy McInnerny as Beverly, Huw Higginson as Laurence, Elizabeth Hopley as Angela, Simon Wilson as Tony and Liz Crowther as Susan made up one of the most dysfunctional groups of 1970s types I have ever seen. The characters are so well drawn and played that if you lived through the period you can identify with it immediately. All five actors received rapturous applause at the close of the evening and it was well deserved.
Director David Grindley recreates the atmosphere of the 1970s beautifully to such an extent that you could see members of the audience pointing out items on stage and saying ‘I used to have one of those’, ‘I knew someone just like her’ and ‘I bought a house from an estate agent like him too’. The set by Jonathan Fensom is exquisitely designed with its brown leather suite, room divider and essential stereo! The costumes are spot on and this production will ensure that they come back into fashion.
As the opening production of the Rep’s Autumn season this is a big success and it confirms once more that the man at the helm, Jonathan Church has the magic touch in bringing to Birmingham the very best of plays that attract an audience and fill the theatre.