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