Review: 'Abigail’s Party' - UK Tour

1400x700_0002_Jodie Prenger, Rose Keegan, Dan Casey, Vicky Binns, Calum Callaghan 68.jpg
  • Lewis C. Baird, United Kingdom Critic

Mike Leigh’s 1970s kitchen sink drama, “Abigail’s Party”, is back on tour with an all new production and cast. Following the story of the troublesome couple, Beverley and Laurence, inviting their neighbors, Sue, Angela and Tony round for a get together. All this is happening, while Sue’s daughter, Abigail is having a house party down the road. What could possibly go wrong?

Jodie Prenger is outlandishly hilarious as Beverly. She fills this character with colour and personality, which is instantly realized by the audience. Jodie plays Beverly as if she is the birth child of Gemma Collins and Edina Monsoon. It is just a great portrayal to watch, and the energy Jodie supplies, completely lifts the piece. Daniel Casey clearly has his work cut out for him, as Bev’s partner, Laurence. There is a great dysfunctional relationship between the two, and it is obvious that in the case of Bev and Laurence, opposites attract, with the contrast in characters that the actors help deliver. Daniel also helped show the clear frustration Laurence endures each day, with slight moments which is in-between dialogue.

Vicky Binns is a riot as Angela, the gobby neighbor, who loves to indulge in conversation about her and her partner’s private life. Vicky’s energy and delivery were impressive, it is a really naturalistic, yet delightfully funny portrayal. Calum Callaghan as Tony, gave a rather dark character, who seems inaccessible to the audience. At points it was very hard to read what was going on with the character. The only clear factors was his dislike of Vicky and that he was attracted to Beverly, however, other than that, Calum left the audience rather confused of Tony’s intentions during other moments.

Rose Keegan as Sue, showed a rather ditsy, confused character, who seems to be drifting aimlessly through life. At the end of act two, we do see a rather good shift in character with Sue, and there has clearly been a development with the frustration building up inside her. There is a lot of repetition involved with this character’s dialogue, which seems to constantly be performed out to the audience, and I am unaware if this was a direction choice or Rose’s character choice. However, at points, it just seems like Sue is not in the scene at all and even playing up to the audience, rather than involved with the conversation that is ongoing. This at points did stop the comedy from hitting every note with this character.

In terms of writing Mike Leigh’s script definitely just suggests outlandish characterization and over the top moments, however, in the final act of the play, as much as there is more action, perhaps in the latter section of the show, everything happens too quickly and it ends up being a little bit messy. But, the comedy in this show is great, the characters are very relatable, as well as their situations, even though this play is from the seventies, there are still people who are very much able to relate to it today. Sarah Esdaile’s direction, lifts the energy that the original production delivered, and breathes fresh ideas into this comedy. With the help of Janet Birds very retro and apt stage and costume design, including wood panel walls/ceiling, grey leather sofas, 70s hairstyle and the green kitchen glimpsing through center stage right. This is complimented by Paul Pyant’s realistic lighting design.

Overall, this production is filled with laughs and big characters. It brings Mike Leigh’s play to a whole new generation. With a definite standout being Jodie Prenger as the outrageous Beverly.