Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Theatre Review "Abigail's Party" at the Theatre Royal Newcastle

Welcome to the 70's

Walking into the auditorium of the Theatre Royal I was hit by a faint odour. I recognised it as the smell of the 70's. The smell you may encounter if you open a drawer in an old dresser that once contained polyester blouses. The smell of an uncomfortable brown leather 3 piece suite that forces the occupants into an unnatural slouch. The stage was a sea of beige, no, "camel". Not a plain surface anywhere and always shades of brown, fawn or "camel". Luurvely!

An excruciatingly funny look at a suburban "soiree" hosted by the insecure, frustrated, exhibitionist housewife Beverly. Grasping desperately at her and her estate agent husband's wealth relative to their neighbours', Beverly, played by Hannah Waterman, tries unsuccessfully to steer the gathering into the "sophisticated" cocktail party she wants it to be. Instead, the situation becomes increasing uncomfortable as drinks are pressed on the guests Susan (the neighbour there to escape the unseen party in her house hosted by her 15 year old daughter Abigail) and married couple Tony and Angela.

Beverly's awful behaviour, flirting openly and physically with Tony is seemingly ignored by her husband Laurence and tolerated by Angela. Poor Susan is beside herself with worry about the party as she is wound up by Beverly over what might be going on in her house over the road. It all gets rather unpleasant, and it can only get worse.

Abigail's Party
"Abigail's Party" picture from the Theatre Royal Website
Hannah Waterman played a really awful woman really well. Of course any performance of Beverly will be compared with Alison Steadman's in the TV play from 1977. No need. Hannah was a cringe inducing Beverly...as she should be. The last time I saw Martin Marquez was as the wine waiter Gino in Hotel Babylon. He carried the role as the long suffering, highly strung, and tortured husband with apparent ease. Katie Lightfoot played Angela, smiling through the pain of another terrible marriage. Emily Raymond took the role of the slightly posh (and therefore resented by Beverly) divorcee Susan. She expressed all too well the uncomfortable feeling of being somewhere you don't want to be, with people you don't really like and being forced to drink too much alcohol, awful. And Tony, quietly succumbing to Beverly's dubious charms, was given life..(a very disappointing one, it seems) by Samuel James.

Mike Leigh's characters in "Abigail's Party" are, none of them, likeable, and the characters were presented superbly tonight. I loved the set, it took me back to my childhood, when I went to the houses of the better-off! We had woodchip on our walls..

Cheeseypineapple anyone?

Abigail's Party is on at The Theatre Royal until Saturday 9th March

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