"...this laugh-out-loud play has stood the test of time for a reason."
Mike Leigh’s cult classic Abigail’s Party is delighting audiences at Derby Theatre this Autumn. Well cast and admirably directed by Douglas Rintoul the play, set in 70s home-made Essex, is a hilarious take on suburban, lower-middle-class attitudes, fashion and etiquette. The story features around ex-department store cosmetics girl Beverley (Melanie Gutteridge) and her hen-pecked, boorish estate agent husband, Laurence (Christopher Staines). Bev and Laurence have invited new neighbours, Angela the daft and giggly nurse (Amy Downham) and Tony the computer operator (Liam Bergin), round for drinks. They are joined by the painfully quiet and somewhat awkward neighbour, Susan (Susie Emmet), the divorcee only there to escape her teenage daughter Abigail’s house party in the adjoining semi. The gathering, fuelled with cheese and pineapple sticks, gin and tonics, Bacardi and the occasional olive, starts stiffly as the strangers introduce themselves, yet ends rather dramatically as the alcohol takes effect and Laurence objects to Bev’s shameless flirting with geeky Tony. The cracks in their marriage soon become apparent as its clear Bev and Laurence are far from happy.
Melanie Gutteridge, best known for her roles in The Bill and Not Going Out, portrays the shallow, almost cringeworthy hostess to perfection, comically patronising her neighbours and the performances and comic timing of this whole cast is superb. The set, seriously worthy of an award, is a highly detailed and fully functional lounge-diner with deliciously old-fashioned drinks bar, vinyl record player, lava lamp and more... all encased in a typical 70s design.
A very strong cast and direction ensures a first-rate production. With some marvellous outfits some of us will be taken back to that era in a jiffy and some of us may jokingly view it as a social history lesson. Nevertheless, this laugh-out-loud play has stood the test of time for a reason.
Runs to 20 October
Contains smoking on stage
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