Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Saturday, 24 March 2018
Abigail’s Party, March 22, 2018 ****
By Mike Leigh, by Melbourne
Theatre Company At Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, until April 21, 2018
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri March 23, 2018 & later in print. KH
Zoe Boesen, Katherine Tonkin, Pip Edwards-MTC ABIGAIL'S PARTY photo Jeff Busby
The booze pours faster,
lips get looser and the flirting more outrageous in Abigail’s Party, Mike
Leigh's acerbic, 1970s satire about London's middle class, and, by the end, you
could cut the desperation with a knife.
It is circa 1977 in
London, and saucy Beverly (Pip Edwards) plays hostess at her ill-conceived
drinks party attended by her resistant husband, Laurence (Daniel Frederiksen), new neighbours, twitty Angela (Zoe Boesen) andher
monosyllabic husband, Tony (Benjamin Rigby), and divorced mum,
Sue (Katherine Tonkin).
play was wildly successful on British stage and television, and although written
40 years ago, his larger-than-life characters and their achingly awkward
relationships at this boozy party seem strangely relevant today.
Set in a garish, 1970s, orange shag pile conversation pit (design, Anna
Cordingley), Stephen Nicolazzo’s production of this audacious tragicomedyhighlights the grotesquery of Leigh’s broadly comical characters as they embarrass
themselves, and humiliate, bully or seduce each other.
Leigh developed his scripts
through improvisation with his cast, and the depth and quirkiness of each
character in Abigail’s Party is testament to the effectiveness of this method
Edwards is both repellent
and oddly sympathetic as the grinning, flirtatious but desperate hostess, Beverly,
who bosses her guests into having fun as she sloshes alcohol into glasses, and writhes
about like a tormented cat.
Beverly and husband,
Laurence, snipe at each other with nasty jibes or blatant criticism, and
Frederiksen effectively captures Laurence’s social clumsiness and his
aspirational but fumbling interest in the highbrow arts.
Boesen’s twitty but well-meaning
Angela is eagerly agreeable, under-confident, and mercilessly bullied by her
seemingly harmless husband.
Rigby’s Tony is initially reserved until he downs enough
booze to give him sufficient confidence to slaver over Beverly and snap at his
our sympathy as beleaguered Sue, the well-spoken, unremittingly polite divorcee
who seems keen to leave but can’t, because her teenage daughter, Abigail, has
taken over Sue’s home to have a loud party.
Beverly and her guests appear
to yearn for Abigail’s party because it embodies all the youthful fun and
sensuality they no longer experience.
Abigail's Party is hilarious, uncomfortable and depressingly familiar in
its depiction of ugly suburbia that seems to have changed so little in four
By Kate Herbert
Zoe Boesen (The Moors), Pip Edwards (Ghosts), Daniel Frederiksen (Matilda: The Musical), Benjamin Rigby (Alien: The
Covenant) and Katherine Tonkin