Abigail’s Party

Redlynch Players     Redlynch Village Hall, Lover, Salisbury  Caroline Burr  22 November  2023

This is a 1977 play originally devised and directed by Mike Leigh. It is a tale of an aspiring, suburban nouveau riche couple, Laurence and Beverley Moss, who host an evening for their new neighbours, Angela and her husband Tony, and Sue.  Sue’s teenage daughter Abigail (a character we never meet) is having a party next door, so that the loud music and various shenanigans form the background to the action. The soiree at the Moss’s abound with snacks, cigarettes and alcohol, so that gradually manners and tempers are lost and the thin veneer of sophistication that the couple attempt to create, evaporates.

The Players did admirably with excellent costumes (did we really wear patterns like that?), period furniture and wallpaper, hair and make-up.  The small playing area used was ideal to create the claustrophobic atmosphere needed for the uncomfortable scenes as they played out, although it was regretful that the exits weren’t more realistic. Another issue was the absence of a carpet, which meant that we heard a lot of noise from the actors’ footwear.

The other key ingredient for the success of the play is the performance of the actress playing Beverley. She is the central character and the hub around which all the action takes place. Gina Hodsman did a very good job at portraying the monstrous Beverley. Her timing on some of the comedy lines was spot on, and it was easy to believe that she was able to push Laurence to breaking point!

Graham Simpson as Laurence, clearly showed his exasperation with his wife, disdain for Tony and Angela, and obsequiousness towards Sue.

Sarah Newman as mousy Angela was a delight. Her stories of pilchard curry, relationship with husband Tony, and particularly her dancing, were hilarious. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clear view of her big scene at the end of the play, as it was necessarily played out on the floor.

Ali Silver as Sue represents the middle class. She captured the quiet, contained, well-mannered character and gave us a commendable performance. The contrast between her character and the domineering Beverley’s was well drawn out. Andrew Harrison-King was a little posh as the ex-Crystal Palace footballer Tony. He has few lines as the phlegmatic husband to Angela, until the later stages of the play when he becomes increasingly irritated with his tactless wife. He looked great in his gaudy trousers, and his flirty dance with Beverley was well done.  I wanted to see more pent up aggression early on, so that Angela’s description of him as “… not violent. Just a bit nasty” was more meaningful.

Overall, despite my comments, it was a very enjoyable evening watching a great play at Redlynch.