18 July 2012

Abigail's Party at Wyndham's Theatre

Abigail's Party had been on my radar for some time a) because I had head of it and b) one of the stars is Natalie Casey from the trashy but immensely watchable Two Pints ..., which I have probably watched more than any other TV programme (it's about time that BBC Three brought it back).

I was unable to catch the start of the run at the Menier Chocolate Factory so was glad to see it transfer to the larger and more convenient Wyndham's Theatre and even gladder to be offered discounted tickets through work.

And they were reasonable tickets too. Our group was near the front in the Royal Circle. This is the first level above the stalls and is my favourite place to sit in traditionally arranged theatres. I prefer to look down on the stage

Last time I was at Wyndam's I was right at the back on the fourth level (and paid very little to be there) so it was nice to be back in the heart of the theatre and with a decent view.

The empty stage gave us a good clue of what to expect with its leather furniture, dividing unit and relentless browns. This is what the 70s looked like.

The room is the setting for an evening of drinks to welcome a new couple to the area. The hosts are an estate agent and his bubble wife, the newcomers are a nurse and a computer operator (I remember when we had those) and joining them was another neighbour, Susan, who has been divorced for three years.

Susan is also the mother of fifteen year old Abigail who is also having a party that night. We never see Abigail but we do learn a little about her party; more on that later.

The play is a comedy of manners between five very different people who don't really get on or mix very well, despite being married and/or friends.

Beverley the hostess, played brilliantly by Jill Halfpenny, buzzes around the room, talks at nineteen to the dozen, plies everybody with drinks and makes the most of her low-cut dress.

Angela (Natalie Casey) is slow in speech and thought without realising it.

Her husband seems to resent her dullness and while she think that they are happily married it is not at all clear that he agrees.

At one point he goes to check the Abigail's party is under control and he comes back sometime later with a wet shirt that goes unexplained.

There are petty battles over music, some blatant flirting and a more serious spat over art but it the way that the five characters are gradually exposed through their words that matters. This is the source of a lot of laughs and some cringes before the story suddenly changes direction and we are left with an uncertain and unsettling ending.

The richness of the dialogue makes it an enjoyable evening even if it does not stretch the intellect too much.

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