'Abigail's Party'- a hark back to the 70's but so relevant to today!Mon 8th October 2018
Hull Truck's current offering is so well known. Written by the always-watcheable (and national treasure) Mike Leigh, everyone MUST have seen the TV version with Amanda Steadman as Beverley Moss. But don't think this production can't add anything to the TV version or other staged productions, because Director, Amanda Huxtable adds a couple of interesting twists.
The set is stunning! I remember aspiring to owning the fabulous 70's-design furniture back in the day. My Mum has a record player like Beverley's and fibre-optic lamps never really went out of fashion - well, that's my excuse for still having one in my living room. But Beverley is a narcissistic, domineering horror, married to social climber Laurence whom she can only just bear to be near because of his 'financial support'. You feel so sorry for her 'party' guests, newly-weds and neighbours Angela and Tony and Susan, mother of Abigail, who we never meet, who is having a real party next door.
Katharine Bennett-Fox plays Beverley with a grating, Essex-style accent which really irritates by the end of the evening. She looks the part with bouffant curls and floaty blue long dress and platform heels - how she navigates the steps on the set so well, especially when she is 'tipsy' is to be applauded! It is a good job that the alcohol she and the other characters are drinking isn't real; I'm sure they would not have managed to get through the evening if the drinks had been the real McCoy! Duncan McInnes plays Laurence Moss; he is appalled by Beverley's behaviour as an ingratiating hostess.
Ani Nelson and Daniel Ward play Angela and Tony Cooper. She is a nurse; he is a computer operator, but he once played football for Crystal Palace, although it 'didn't work out.' Angela and Tony are a black couple in this production although their ethnic background makes little difference to the discomfort at the situation in which Tony finds himself - he would much rather have been at home watching the TV - and Angela is in awe of Beverley and her house. However, ironically, it is the Coopers who are the real upwardly-mobile couple, not the Moss's.
Rebecca Charles has the most interesting and 'real' part. She plays Susan, divorced from Abigail's father and, understandably, worried about her 15-year-old daughter and what is going on at her party. This echoes the rest of her life - interesting things happen to others and she is there as a by-stander, worrying about the consequences. By all accounts, her daughter's party is the complete opposite to the one she is attending - it's lively, fun and exciting!
Abigail's Party shows how soul-destroying it can be to try to be something you aren't when there's no way you can move out of the rut you are stuck in. But pretending to like gin and tonic, eating food you don't want (cheese and pineapple on sticks stuck in a foil-covered potato anyone!), smoking sneaky cigarettes and putting up with snobby comments makes for great theatre! Mike Leigh said he wrote the play to echo the times and as a comment on suburban existence. So how relevant is it today?
This play was written 2 years before the rise of Thatcherism; 40 years on we have the social upheaval of Brexit. As Michael Davies points out in the accompanying programme notes, 1977 saw parties on every street corner as the nation celebrated the Queen's Silver Jubilee; today the Prime Minister promises celebrations as the UK leaves the EU. There will always be entrepreneurs and marketing men who whet appetites for more and although today it might not be Demis Roussos and Donna Summer who we listen to anymore, ultimately the same issues abound - we all want to get on. 'Abigail's Party' , though, demonstrates that Beverley's methods of making friends and influencing people are just so wrong!
The play is on until October 20th. Tickets are available from https://www.hulltruck.co.uk/ or call the Box Office on 01482 323638