REVIEW: ABIGAIL’S PARTY
‘But lets face it Ange, there are times when you could hit ‘em over the head with a rolling pin and clear out, d’ya know what I mean?’ – Beverly, Abigail’s Party.
In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the Curve Monday night to see Abigail’s Party, but I am happy to say that I was presently surprised. Walking in and finding the stage in the center of the room, with the audience meaning to sit around it, immediately gave a more intimate vibe. No matter where you sat there wasn’t going to be a single movement you missed, and instead of just watching it being performed, you feel more like a fly on the wall actually watching as the events take place.
Set in Walthamstow, London on the evening of Saturday 16th April 1977, we follow Beverly as she tries to be the prefect hostess for her neighbors. In all honestly by the end of the first half, Beverly was getting on my last nerve but that was the point, I think she was supposed to be perceived as a very flippant, over dramatic, almost controlling woman. When her husband, Laurence, returns home from a long day at work, we very subtly see the tension raise a little bit, giving the impression that everything may not be as pristine inside the house as Beverly likes to make out to everyone.
Nevertheless, they plow through with the evening, the first guests to arrive being Angela and Tony, newlyweds who have recently moved in. Not long after their arrival, it becomes hilariously awkward, with long pauses while they desperately seek something to talk about and Beverly subtly flirting and relishing in the attention from Tony. To cover this tension, everyone drank a LOT of alcohol. When Sue arrives, her teenage daughter Abigail having her own party down the road, the awkwardness seeps back in and we see Angela covering the same awkward topics with Sue that she did with Beverly, there is not a moment where you are not laughing.
Throughout the night Beverly and Laurence continue to take small digs at each other, Beverly being too much of a show-off and Laurence feeling very embarrassed and on edge all night. We must however applauded Beverly on her job of being a (mostly) good hostess and keeping most of the night under control. However, when Sue ends up feeling the effect of too many unwanted gin and tonics at the end of the first half, it is clear to see the evening is going very downhill very quickly.
As the night drags into the second half, we begin to see the small cracks in the foundation deepen. Everyone is pretty much off their faces, with the exception of poor Sue, and trouble isn’t too far behind. But to my delight, I still spent most of the second half in fits of laughter after every snide comment or oblivious answer from Tony. Very suddenly events take a turn in such a way, that having despised Beverly from pretty much the get go, I began to feel sorry for her.
During the last 10 minutes of the production, there was no laughter, no awkwardness, just tension with everyone sitting on the edge of their seats as this reality check begins to unfold on the night. I obviously wont say too much to spoil the ending, but I never in a million years expected it to take that turn, but in honesty, it was the best ending to any play I’ve seen in a very long time, and is done so cleverly that you almost don’t expect it to have really finished even when the lights go down.
If you’re in the mood for some heartfelt awkward comedy, then definitely check it out, even if it doesn’t sound like your type of thing, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.