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By James Marston
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Abigail’s Party, Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday February 16
One of the most popular plays ever written, Abigail’s Party at Cambridge Arts Theatre is an excellent production of a much-loved classic.
From the pen of Mike Leigh and directed by Tom Attenborough, this is a well-observed play set in 1970s suburban Britain.
Hannah Waterman as the monstrous Demis Roussos-loving Beverly is magnificent. And Katie Lightfoot as the somewhat tactless new neighbour Angela is on top form.
Complete with brown set, this is vintage Leigh at its best, the themes of class, and suburban ensnarement as relevant today as they ever were.
With plenty of laughs, Beverly is determined everyone has a good time in her front room by ensuring glasses are liberally topped up as the cheesy pineapple ones are handed round.
Meanwhile, her hard working husband Laurence tries hard to rise above Beverly’s less cultivated tastes by showing off his gold-embossed leather-bound books and discussing classical music with the upper class Susan, whose teenage daughter Abigail is throwing a party down the street.
With brilliant one-liners, Beverly steals the show with her barely concealed lust for the taciturn Tony. Her outrageous clothes, her overbearing corpulence, her vile treatment of her husband combine to make one of modern theatre’s most recognisable grotesques.
In the second half, the cast expertly build the tension towards the play’s disturbing climax.
This is a hugely entertaining interpretation of an iconic work.