Friday, March 08, 2019

'Abigail's Party' by Mike Leigh

8 March 2018

On Thursday we were at the Derngate in Northampton to see Sarah Esdaile’s revival of ‘Abigail’s Party’. Mike Leigh’s 1977 play – and particularly the television version with Alison Steadman and the rest of the original stage cast – is so familiar I could have chanted along with much of the dialogue. It formed the template for the comedies of social embarrassment that are now such a familiar part of British culture – such as ‘The Office’, ‘The Thick of It’ and Alan Partridge. This production was excellently cast with Jodie Prenger making Beverley simultaneously monstrous, hilarious and sympathetic and perfectly capturing those nasal Essex vowels. And Rose Keegan was wonderful as Sue, the middle class neighbour (and mother of Abigail) who feels increasingly like a hostage, albeit an incredibly polite prisoner. On the 40th anniversary of ‘Abigail’s Party’, in February 2017, Mike Leigh wrote a great piece for The Guardian, reflecting on the origins of the play, which explains how the TV version replaced Elvis with Tom Jones, and José Feliciano with Demis Roussos. See:

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