TITLE: Abigail's Party
PLAYWRIGHT: Mike Leigh
PERFORMANCE DATES: 19th - 21st May 2022
DIRECTOR: Helen Lawley
Beverly - Nicki Clay
Laurence - Mike Waters
Angela - Linda Baillie
Tony – Trevor Britain
Susan - Jill Pearson
Click HERE for production programme
SYNOPSIS - ABIGAIL'S PARTY
Let’s travel back to the 1970s and a time of cheese and pineapple on sticks, paisley prints, and Dennis Rousseau. This evening, suburban socialite Beverly and her husband Laurence are hosting a drinks party, despite Laurence arriving home late from work. They have invited their new neighbors, married couple Tony and Angela, along with their recently divorced, next door neighbor Susan, who has been banished from her home as her teenage daughter Abigail is throwing her first party. As the drinks flow, tensions rise. Beverly flirts with Tony, while Laurence sulks on the sofa. Sniping, bickering, and drunken dancing ensue, until the evening comes to a sudden close when Laurence suffers a fatal heart attack.
Originally developed through lengthy improvisations, Abigail’s Party is a biting satire of British middle-class aspirations in the 1970s.
CHAIR’S PRODUCTION NOTES
It always amazes me how the same text can be interpreted in many, many ways. Take Shakespeare – ‘traditional’ productions can be just as entertaining as modern-day ones, or stylised costumes can give a nod to different eras and genres. And then again, some productions just don’t work and disappear as quickly as they arrived!
So, it is with Abigail’s Party – what seems a fairly dry text (which reminds me a lot of studying Pinter at A level) comes alive when presented ‘in character’. To be fair, anyone presenting this show on any sort of stage was going to have to take their audience into consideration, as live theatre is very different from a TV drama (and let’s face it, stage productions filmed for TV in the theatre are all very interesting, and sometimes very good, but always a little odd).
Put aside any memories you may have of the TV original, and enjoy our stage version, with its 70s throwback, attitudes from a different era, and the original Essex Girls, Bev and Ang.
Helen and our cast and crew have worked their magic, and are looking forward to sharing the show with you.
Has it dated? Do its messages still apply? You can make your own mind up about that.
Enjoy the show. (And by the way, what are your kids getting up to tonight…?)
Looking back, I was vaguely aware of Mike Leigh's play Abigail's Party when it burst on the scene in 1977 but its cult status largely passed me by until I first saw it some seven years ago. I'd been following a cohort of York DramaSoc students and went to see their production at The Drama Barn which blew me away with its mix of energy and humour. The effect was partly about the strong nostalgia I felt for the period I grew up in. But mainly for the Cast’s appreciation of Leigh's wicked penmanship and the strength of the characters shining down the years. I just knew I wanted to be involved in a production one way or another. It's actually what first drew me to the Monday Players who had mentioned reading the play on their website. Now here I am directing an intimate 'in the round' interpretation with the bestest bunch of people. Happy Days!
At fourteen in 1977, I was about the right age for an invite to the eponymous Abigail's shenanigans but sadly way too uncool to have got one. Nor were my formative years spent in such suburban surroundings. Yet the themes and opinions in the play very much resonate with my own experience. 'My Street' was a place where people were striving to get on and better themselves in a decade of strikes and deprivations, at odds with their disdain of those who thought they were better than they were and forgot their roots. Cars were not yet forming barricades the length of the street and neighbours and extended families alike passed through the revolving doors of each other’s homes. Children could happily play in the street and Jubilee celebrations united. My Mum and Dad would glam up to go out to dinner dances and freely offer hospitality at home. A well-stocked drinks cabinet with party food of the time: prawn vol-au-vents, black forest gateau and always the 'hedgehog': a foiled spud spiked with cheese, pineapple and silverskin onions. Tupperware parties, Pippa Dee parties, lots of adult conversation for small ears to wig in on.
For me Abigail's Party is a smorgasbord for a tribe I know and love dearly in all their artlessness and glory. As Leigh himself says “Abigail's Party goes beyond being a comedy: it is a tragicomedy. For me personally, it is very much a play about 'us' not 'them'… These are people that we recognise and understand. The play is both a lamentation and a celebration of how we are.”
Photos taken by Nancy Waters