A step back into 70’s Surbiton in this timeless claustrophobic classic Mike Leigh black comedy.
Set in a non-descript 70’s semi detached living room, the set is instantly recognisable; G-plan furniture, the ubiquitous drinks cabinet, low 3 piece suite and record player could be any home in post-swinging 60’s suburbia.
Wife Beverley (Rebecca Birch) desperately wants to be the ‘hostess with the mostess’ – her world centres around portraying the best image possible, somewhat akin to Margot Leadbetter, and tonight is her time to shine. The nibbles are prepared (cheese & pineapple on sticks, crisps and nuts), the cocktail cabinet is stocked and the records ready to play. Husband Laurence (Tom Richardson) an estate agent by trade, is also of the wannabee middle class mindset, he doesn’t really like his neighbours, nor does he relish socialising, but anything to keep dear Beverley happy.
Newly moved into the area, nurse Angela (Alice De- Warrenne) and computer operator Tony (George Readshaw) have been invited round to Bev’s ‘soiree’ – Angela is just happy to have someone else to drink and talk with, Laurence is moody & brooding whilst still remaining reasonably civil. Final invitee is Divorcee Susan (Jo Castleton) who has accepted the invite to escape her teenage daughter (the titular Abigail) and her party.
And thus, the cast is set and the die are rolled on an intense rollercoaster of faux friendships, constant G&Ts and simmering emotions. A wise man once said “"Emotion: Agitation or disturbance of mind; vehement or excited mental state. It is also a powerful and irrational master.” And this show is packed with raw emotions that at times makes watching funny, cringe-worthy, difficult but always riveting.
As the drinks continue to flow, the two gents begin their alpha male posturing; Tony’s classism begins to come to the fore, especially when he realises that Susan has similar tastes in art and culture, giving him a perceived ally in trying to denigrate Laurence. Laurence, on the other hand, seems almost aloof to Tony’s jibes, a trait that does not go unnoticed by Beverley who becomes more predatory as her drinks tally rises.
The 2nd act pushes the feelings of discomfort further, fuelled by alcohol, resentment and realisation, cumulating in a finale that stopped the audience in their tracks and left the final curtain with a moment of silent shock before the inevitable applause.
This London Classic Theatre Production, directed by Michael Cabot and brilliantly designed by Bek Palmer is nearing the end of its tour so don’t delay, grab your tickets this week and see a real stand-out piece of theatre drama comedy.