over the years as a 'savage satire on England's middle-class', 'cocktail
party from hell', 'biting but witty' and 'a step back in time to
the 70's - fibre optic lamps, coal-effect fires, soda-siphons, spider
plants, sideboards and room dividers, the whole décor in
orange, brown and avocado' the cocktail party which is 'Abigail's
Party' continues to delight audiences periodically.
it certainly is all of the above. This young cast bring out both
the humour and the pathos of Mike Leigh's stereotypical '70s cocktail
party play wonderfully well. Emma Jenkinson, now a welcome regular
to the Oxford theatre circuit, is brilliantly bitchy as the hostess,
Beverley while Tom Viita on his Oxford debut really brings Laurence
out of his sometime shadows to play the tragic figure he really
is. Serena Martin, uncouth yet wistful as the mousy Angela, accompanies
her unwilling husband, the boorish Tony (David Cresswell), and the
courteous nervous Susan, mother of the eponymous teenager Abigail,
is played to perfection by Hannah Richards.
the play has a deeper level below the scathing satire: it provides
a near-tragic expose of the struggles of ordinary, incompatible
people against the 70s tide of social mobility and class-consciousness.
Beverley's guests all aspire to be things they cannot, for reasons
out of their control: lack of the right education or the right upbringing
has cast them up on the shore of that awful cocktail party. None
shares the others' aspirations, and all are frustrated. Abigail,
the never-seen 15 year old holding the 'freak-out' party across
the road, still has her freedom and choice and is envied by Beverley
and her guests. The title of the play, 'Abigail's Party' is the
final defeat for Beverley's party, driving home the extent to which
they are defined by their thwarted ambitions.
which to my mind surpasses the one which visited the Playhouse last
year - pay it a visit!
views expressed in these comments are those of the contributor's
and not the BBC.