On Tuesday evening, one of my new besties and I headed to Hull Truck Theatre to see their latest hit – Abigail’s Party. Set in the 1970’s, it is written by Mike Leigh and directed by Amanda Huxtable, and is a really comical (and rather disconcerting) portrayal of social dynamics and relationships, that left us both wondering one two thing’s – Who the heck is Abigail and what actually happened at her party?!

I am not old enough to remember or know much about this original classic, but having studied recently about Sociologist Erving Goffman and his dramaturgical theory of us all playing parts and never truly being ourselves around others, I was intrigued by the whole story and theme of Abigail’s Party.

The saying of “we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors” really comes alive in this play, as does this idea of us all playing parts around others and how drink can quickly hinder this! I loved the topics it explores and the way the characters brought them to life. Beyond the comical surface of this play (and those brilliantly strong characters), it was filled with real life issues and evidence of “playing parts” in society, and it was this aspect of it all that I really enjoyed seeing unravel.

The play is set in Beverly’s rather modern and sophisticated 70’s lounge, and consists of just 5 incredibly well plated character’s (with reference to others). Whilst these characters come and go throughout, there is no set change, giving focus to the characters and their stories. I liked the simplicity of this and the excitement to settle back into my seat as a spectator into her home to see how things unfurled in the second half.

Beverly tries hard to be a model of middle class behaviour and taste – She enters in a cobalt blue floaty dress and sparkly heels, behaving and looking the epitome of middle class, and then opens her mouth to reveal what we would class today as an “Essex girl”! Her marriage to Lawrence (a workaholic estate agent) seems pleasant on the surface, but you soon begin to see the cracks forming. Whilst they attempt to put on a good show to try and impress their new neighbours, it quickly becomes apparent as the drinks, nibbles and snobby comments flow that they have a very sad and dysfunctional marriage and life together.

Her first guests are nurse Angela and husband Tony (Tone – a computer operator). Angela is excited for a new home and life in a “posh” neighbourhood, and is eager to please Beverly, but whilst Beverly tries to impress (or even dominate her), it also becomes clear that Beverly fancies her friends husband Tony, which fuels more snide and blatantly rude comments fired in her husbands direction. Whilst this element is very funny too, it also becomes rather sad too that none of them are really and truly happy in their costly lives and relationships – all trying to impress and keep up with others.

And then they are joined by Sue – a divorcee and long standing resident of their street, who is much more reserved and a seemingly vulnerable character. She is what would be seen as true middle class, and yet whilst the cheese and pineapple sticks are circulated and awkward pauses are filled with sneaky cigarettes, she becomes the butt of many comments and jokes. The reason being that the real party in this play isn’t what is happening in front of us, but rather it is happening back at her house, where her teenage daughter Abigail and her mates are having the time of their lives!

I enjoyed all of the characters – they each brought something witty and unique in their own right, and each one was played wonderfully. “Tones” really made us laugh, and I liked seeing how Beverly begins to evolve into a monstrous person, with no thought or regard for those around her. As she drinks more and more, her character becomes all the more forceful and jugey, often thrusting unwanted drinks and cigarettes onto her guests, belittling them and winding up her husband. She is really funny and plays the party well.

But my most favourite was definitely Sue! I liked her vulnerability and element of snobbiness and uneasiness around the others. I liked her disapproving looks and general awkwardness to be sat there at her bossy neighbours home (that obviously had a vibe of not being quite up to standard) with people she wouldn’t dream of mixing with under normal circumstances. I really felt for Sue as the other guests mocked her life, along with how anxious she was about her daughter Abigail’s party! She was fantastic!

I really enjoyed this play and despite us leaving with many unanswered questions and wonderment about the whole ending, it is definitely worth going to see either with friends or on a date! It is funny and brilliant and the whole theatre was laughing out loud throughout!

Abigail’s Party is on until Sat 20 OCT. It starts at 7.30PM with Matinees at 2pm on the 6th, 13th, 17th & 20th OCT. It is 2hrs 20mins (inc interval) and Tickets cost £10 – £24.50 

*Thank you to Hull Truck theatre for inviting me along to review this play. All thoughts are my own & Photo credit goes to Paul Floyd Blake

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I remember when Ethan was a tot, and a friend passed on some toys for him. In them were some lovely wooden building blocks, and for days on end we built anything from buildings, to animal houses for his toys, and forts. As he grew he used them to launch at his sister (?!), and they built all sorts together too. Soon they became too tatty and lost, that we decided to get rid of the remaining ones to de-clutter and make space for more age appropriate toys!

How much fun they brought us, and how they drove their imaginations!

Move forward a few years, and little Alice entered our lives! Then, last January whilst sale shopping, I found some lovely colourful building blocks in Wilko for £1.25 and bought them for her 1st Birthday! Like anything you buy for that major milestone of turning 1, it’s often more for the foreseeable future for them to grow in to. And only now (at almost 19 months), has she really shown an interest and a love for them.

Almost every day this week we have had them out. Stacking, carefully placing, clapping and laughing together. We have built all sorts and taken risks with which block goes where! I have loved her meticulous concentration as she balanced one on another. I have loved her eager noises of excitement and cheeky grins as she succeeded! But mostly I loved that I made time with her to play, to build and to share these ordinary moments of childhood development. It was so lovely to spend a good 40 minutes on Wednesday, when the kids were in school and the house was quiet; to be together and giggle, clap and play with building blocks.

Too many times I set her on task with toys so I can do laundry, clean the kitchen or tidy up. But this week I have chilled out and played more. I have tried harder (in line with my goals) to be a more present parent and make more ordinary and lovely memories in the moment.

Alice loves her building blocks – there are so many things she can do with them, and they bring hours of fun. I am excited for more days of building, laughing and “ahhhhhhh-ing” as they fall, as we play together and bond over the blocks!

 

The Ordinary Moments
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Having lived in Leeds for 7 years or so I have visited Kirkstall Abbey a few times, I have taken the kids on the odd occasion to their weekly craft/play sess and even once went into the musem..it was an epic fail – Mainly because they were too young and not interested and I was disappointed to never have seen the whole museum.

For the last few months I have had it on my “To go to” list and yet we have never actually got around to going, I figured now they were a little older they may enjoy it more…I was right! Mr Smith is currently off work with a chest infection (he’s apparently on deaths door!) and so as to help him get some rest I bundled the kids into the car and off we went. From where we live it only takes about 25 mins and we stopped off on the way for a sandwich each and arrived there around lunch time, it was perf because everyone was heading to the cafe for lunch and so it was pretty quiet. As its Easter there were some lovely crafts and then we explored the Victorian Streets – Absolutely brilliant. So many teaching opportunities, lots to touch and even some fancy dress.

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Upstairs was even more kid friendly with a section about looks/looking good (to be honest I didn’t read much as they legged it to the wigs) and then a gallery all about Victorian children, toys, and living. They had a lot of fun singing nursery rhymes with me and then we played tea parties, followed by story time in the den (with mummy not the museum). I couldn’t believe that then they had a nursery with old toys on display and plenty of toys for the kids to play with (que hyperventilating from E) it was so lovely.

wigs playingThe Victorian era is one of my faves and it was great that we were able to spend a good hour and half in the museum learning and playing together, the staff were all very child friendly too and it was just a lovely atmosphere. The fun didn’t stop there as we made our way across the rd to the FREE Abbey, which I must warn is VERY tempting for children to climb on! They loved exploring it and were in awe at the vastness of it all. It was great to see them soaking up history and loving their life!
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I cannot wait until the weather is warmer so we can actually go again and this time spend the whole day there and at the park too; playing, exploring, learning, creating and picnicking you can do it all at Kirkstall Abbey & Abbey House Museum!

Linking up with Yorkshire tots for #YorkshireFamily (Thanks)

#YorkshireFamily with Yorkshire Tots
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