I was at the opening night of Abigail's Party in the Gaiety last night.
The play was written by Mike Leigh and the original 1977 production starred his then wife, Alison Steadman (of later fame as Mrs Bennet in the superlative 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice) in the main role of Beverly. This current production retains the original setting and comes to us after a successful run in the West End.
The drama takes places over the course of an evening's gathering at Beverly and Laurence's home, with new neighbours, Tony and Angela, and old neighbour, Sue. A lot of the comedy comes from their accents, mannerisms and physicality, while the conversation revolves around intensely mundane topics, while the characters get drunker and drunker. Hannah Waterman, on stage for almost the entire play, deserves praise for her performance as Beverly, as does Samuel James for his ability to say so much with very short dialogue as Tony.
I particularly liked the set - a symphony of browns and oranges as befits the late 1970s setting. It was very reminiscent of my childhood but I did wonder if this setting, and the things I found amusing in it, were originally meant to be funny. When the play was first performed, it would have been a perfectly normal suburban setting. Things like Beverly sticking a bottle of beaujolais in the fridge is funny now but would it have been then? For me the best part was a dance sequence, about which not much can be said without giving the game away.
As the play progresses, the tone of it makes the final act drama seem very sudden and melodramatic, while still providing the laughs.
It runs for just one week and, though I'm still hearing ads, I've also heard of problems getting tickets. These short runs (another coming next week to the Gaiety) don't leave much time for word of mouth and organising tickets. Would a two-week run work better?