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Abigail's Party – Queens Theatre, Hornchurch

Abigail's Party although first performed in 1977 has many of the trademarks of a contemporary piece of theatre. The seventies shades of brown set at the Queens Theatre, complete with a lava lamp and G-Plan style furniture took you right into the heart of the period from the start.

As the piece comes together, we witness five unlikely neighbours having drinks together, (complete with pineapple and cheese on sticks) and see the unravelling of their relationships. As the booze pours faster and the lips get looser, the flirting becomes more outrageous.

Melanie Gutteridge as saucy Beverley leads this cast as she bosses her guests into drink and cigarettes, gyrating around the stage like a viper about to strike, as she openly flirts with neighbour Tony in front of the assembled guests.  While in contrast she snipes at and puts down her husband Laurence, who was superbly played by Christopher Staines.
Christopher got every nuance of a man on the edge of a breakdown while he clumsily attempts social interaction by fumbling through highbrow topics and discussions on art.  There was a certain homage to John Cleese in many of his mannerisms and his frustrations were clearly evident as he tries to address the demands of his wife and his job, both with little success.

Tony played by Liam Bergin, looked like he had literally time travelled back from the era in question, with his long locks and beige suit.  His monosyllabic dialogue matched with some great facial expressions told us a so much of the newlywed’s marriage and his life with Angela, played by Amy Downham.  Amy was like the Duracell bunny on heat, as she bounced and chirped around the stage delivering some great one-liners, with little restraint or tact.  She was a very agreeable and eager character who came into her own at the end of the second act when her work side came to the fore.

By contrast to these 4 characters, Susie Emmett as Sue, the housewife whose architect husband left her for a younger woman and whose presence at the soiree is due to her daughter Abigail holding a party with her teenage friends at home.  Susie was restrained and dignified and perfectly delivered a character who is too polite to say no, so is bullied and coaxed by the larger than life characters until the crux of the drama.
The characters all came across very well delivering the build-up to the story with fast-paced action and dialogue, all adding to overall, a very enjoyable evening and a play that is still timeless but could so easily be happening in a living room near you!
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