Review: ‘The pace never falters’ – Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Abigail's Party 40th anniversary production starring Amanda Abbington as Beverly, Ben Caplan as Lau

Abigail's Party 40th anniversary production starring Amanda Abbington as Beverly, Ben Caplan as Laurence, Charlotte Mills as Angela, Ciar�n Owens as Tony and Rose Keegan as Susan . Picture: Nobby Clark - Credit: �Nobby Clark Photographer

This perennially popular play rarely fails to amuse and entertain as the gruesome Beverly hosts a little drinks do at her upwardly mobile home, writes James Marston

“Would you like a little cheesy one?”

Amanda Abbington is excellent in the lead role and with a powerful stage presence delivers the snobbish and domineering Beverly’s famous lines with panache and skill while ensuring no one runs short of a little drink or a handful of nuts.

Now enjoying almost legendary status, Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party brings together neighbours of slightly and subtly differing classes into the 1970s front room of estate agent Laurence and his wife Beverly.

A comedy of manners ensues as the play explores each character against the social mores and aspirations of the time.

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While the unseen Abigail – guest Sue’s daughter – throws a party down the road, the characters awkwardly get to know each other, over generous amounts of drink and nibbles, as the dynamics of their relationships ebb and flow towards a dramatic finish.

The acting in the production is excellent; the tension builds right from the beginning; the pace never falters; the set and props are excellent; the choreography is stylish; the audience laps up this particularly well-executed production.

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And of course, the enduring popularity of the play is that it enables us to laugh at ourselves.

Swap Bacardi for Proescco, Demis Roussos for Adele and teak for oak, and Abigail’s Party could be happening in a new build near you this weekend.

A real treat.

• Abigail’s Party, by Mike Leigh is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until April 15

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