Leicester’s unique backstage-less Curve Theatre is hosting a revival of Abigail’s Party. Daisy Leverington put on her party frock and checked it out.
Natalie Thomas as Beverly. Picture by Pamela Raith Photography
‘There’s a man wedged in your bay window!’.
Sounds like a good party, eh? Well that’s Abigail’s party at Number 9, we’re trapped at Number 13, Beverly and Laurence’s pad with real leather sofas, a silver plate candelabra and a drinks cabinet Oliver Reed would be proud of.
Beverly (Natalie Thomas) is hosting a get-together for the new neighbours, Tony and Ange, and Sue, whose daughter Abigail is, by all accounts, having a party to end all parties.
We can hear the drum of the music from Number 9, a constant reminder that more fun is being had elsewhere (the programme lists the playlists from both parties.)
We’re in 1977, huddled together on the sofa against a backdrop of new social mobility. Ange (Emily Head) fawns over the furnishings of her wealthier neighbour while Laurence (Patrick May) proudly passes around his leather-bound anthologies to be admired.
Tony (Cary Crankson) speaks volumes with his one-word answers, the audience filling in the spaces carefully left between utterances. Mike Leigh creates a tension and claustrophobia which director Suba Das heightens by putting us in the round, a first for the Curve’s studio space.
Emily Head as Angela and Cary Crankson as Tony. Picture by Pamela Raith Photography
The audience surrounds the stage like extended family at a distant relative’s 50th – it feels wonderfully voyeuristic. The set is the stuff of family trips to your Nan’s at Christmas. I couldn’t do justice to the orange carpet with my word limit.
Nothing escapes this room or Beverly’s passive aggressive gaze. She keeps the drinks flowing and conversation is as inane as it is hilarious. A particular exchange about fitted furnishings made me want to rip my ears off and shout ‘KILL ME’ but, like Christmas at Nan’s, we all kept quiet.
Sue (Jackie Morrison) is the audience’s spokesperson, and although she doesn’t say much we know she’s thinking what we’re thinking. She’s the one who, given the choice, would rather play with the cat at a party than have another snowball. I can relate to that. Ange is the one dancing on her own, the sort of mate who gets creative with the music after a few gins. (If you don’t have a mate like this, it’s you.)
The cast makes it look easy, the design is spot on and the direction is slick and tight, holding the awful tension until the horrifically funny climax. Go and see this play, sit at the back and just be thankful it’s not you on that brown leather sofa.
Abigail’s Party is at Leicester Curve until Saturday 8th November.
Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.