Abigail’s Party | Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne | Review

Abigail’s Party | Review

 

I was particularly excited to travel down to the Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne last Monday, not just because I look forward to being entertained in new theatre venues, but because I knew that this was the 40th anniversary production of Abigail’s Party. Produced by Theatre Royal Bath Productions and directed by Sarah Esdaile, Abigail’s Party is a pop culture phenomenon, which first debuted on stage and television in 1977. The performance is quite clever, featuring just five cast members; with the audience gripped the entire time as we get to explore their back stories and laugh out loud at their individual character flaws.

 

The show takes place in the 1970’s suburbs. Even if theatre-goers had no prior knowledge of the time period, I’m sure they would have understood.  The bold and blatant 70’s set design was one of my favourite aspects of the evening, with shag pile carpets, a record player and cocktail cabinet. The audience never see a set change, but instead watch everything play out in one living room. In this living room is where all the hilarity ensues. Beverly, played wonderfully by BBC’s Sherlock favourite Amanda Abbington, is throwing a little get-together at her house. She is the epitome of the party animal, always turning the music up louder and pouring “just one more” drink for herself and each of her guests. Beverly’s husband, Lawrence (Ben Caplan), a stressed out Estate Agent, often doesn’t see eye to eye with Beverly, constantly bickering over his love for olives and being bossed around by her.

 

The first guests to arrive are neighbours Tony (Ciaran Owens) and Angela (Charlotte Mills), a married couple who have just moved into the neighbourhood. We laugh along as they both seem like polar opposites of one another. Tony never seems to enjoy the company, often replying in grunts and avoiding Beverly’s constant attempts at flirting with him, whilst Angela is the bubbly, outgoing type – who is heavily influenced by Beverly (and the alcohol she gives her). We often feel sorry for the character of Susan, played by Rose Keegan. One of the only reasons Susan is here in the first place is because her 15 year old daughter, Abigail, is throwing a crazy party back at her own house. She is a divorcee and is often probed by Angela to talk about it, even though she clearly doesn’t want to, and accepts all the drink and food offered to her by Beverly, despite making it obvious that she doesn’t really want any of it. As the evening goes on and the alcohol flows, it goes from uncomfortable conversation and awkward small-talk, to gyrating dance moves, grown-ups vomiting in the toilet, and hilarious drunken spats.

 

Despite never seeing Abigail’s Party before, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the cast were spectacular performers who had me laughing out loud all the way throughout. This 40th anniversary production has not just undertaken a fresh spin on this comedy masterpiece, but also, has introduced a younger generation to the cult-favourite. Abigail’s Party has now finished at Devonshire Park Theatre, but it is an absolute must-see if you get to see it touring elsewhere.

Reviewer: Aimee Carney

★★★★