REVIEW: Abigail’s Party, Theatre Royal Norwich

Amanda Abbington in Abigail's Party

Amanda Abbington in Abigail's Party

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Abigail’s Party, Theatre Royal Norwich

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Although nowadays, you’re more likely to pitch up at a really awkward dinner party than a tricky drinks do. But the premise is the same - a heady mix of unhappy couples, with the various guests and hosts behaving badly in different ways. All helped, of course, by lashings of alcohol.

This Mike Leigh play, first produced 40 years, has stood the test of time as it examines suburbia in all its glory. Snobbery, social climbing and loveless marriages all come under the microscope – and much is as funny as it is unpalatable.

Telly’s Amanda Abbington takes the iconic Alison Steadman role as party thrower Beverly who tries to bully people into enjoying themselves as she chats up someone else’s hubby, while Ben Caplan plays her husband, Laurence, who thinks she’s a bit thick. Add in educated divorcee Susan (Rose Keegan), and another odd couple Ang (Charlotte Mills) and Tony (Ciaran Owens), and you have a snapshot of the changing society.

The piece captures the 70s well - I recall my parents having dos like this with cheese and pineapple on sticks, tough peanuts and stiff G&Ts all round. The lounge decor is fun, with hideous curtains and the essential fluffy rug, while the music sums up what the play is all about.

Are you a James Galway or Demis Roussos fan? That’s really how we judge what class you belong to, isn’t it?

This bittersweet play is an intense piece, performed by a small, talented cast who provide an enjoyable if somewhat uncomfortable night out!

The play runs until Saturday. More details at www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

Sarah Hardy