I still have strong memories of watching Abigail’s Party on the BBC back in 1977. I was a young teenager and alternately bemused, amused and appalled at what I saw and heard. It left a lasting impression and I have followed the work of Mike Leigh and Alison Steadman ever since. It is not the safest of choices for a local theatre, although it can be hilarious in places, the characterisation is very strong and the reputation of the original production is so strong that any new production has a lot to live up to.
This production tries to recreate the original as closely as possible, with no attempt to update the 1970s setting and references in any way. Even the physical statures and general appearance of the characters seems to have been cast as closely as possible to the original. The Abbey theatre is an intimate venue that suits such an intimate play particularly well. The single location setup and small cast (5 actors) works well in this environment. The characterisation of Beverly is essentially a carbon-copy of the interpretation of Alison Steadman almost 40 years ago, which is no mean feat. The intensity of the performances is a credit to the hard work of the actors involved and the stage setup evoked that bygone age very effectively. An enjoyable, nostalgic evening for anyone of a similar (or older) age than myself.