Abigail’s Party

Abigail's Party - the cast. Top: Hepzibah Roe and Mitch Capaldi. Bottom: Jessica Olim, Moses Lufti and Claire Fisher

Abigail’s Party: Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne

What a wonderful way to end five weeks of brilliantly diverse and entertaining drama. London Repertory Players complete their summer season at the Tivoli with a superb production of Mike Leigh’s 1977 comic masterpiece Abigail’s Party. It’s hard to believe that it can be 45 years since Leigh’s stage play found fame on the small screen as a BBC Play for Today. It seems so familiar. Maybe that’s simply because I am old but more likely I suspect because it is stuffed with eternal truths about social aspirations.

We find ourselves at Beverly and Laurence’s house on a growing estate in Essex as they entertain new neighbours Ange and Tone (Jessica Olim and Moses Lutfi)  to an evening of cheese and pineapple nibbles, Twiglets and rather too much alcohol. They are joined by another neighbour, the decidedly more upmarket Sue (Claire Fisher), who is making herself scarce as her teenage daughter Abigail has a party nearby.

Let the mayhem begin. Beverley (Hepzibah Roe) is the hostess from Hell. Needy and desperate to impress she is a world-class attention seeker, constantly badgering and belittling her stressed-out estate agent husband Laurence (Mitch Capaldi). She manipulates and controls the evening making sure that Ange and Tone know their place. Ange giggles obligingly as Beverly dishes out beauty tips and dubious wisdom while swaying along to her favourite Demis Roussos LP. 

Tony (a masterclass in taciturn disapproval by Lutfi) is quietly appalled while the decidedly more upmarket Susan is horrified at the way the evening is playing out. She’s also desperately worried about 15-year-old Abigail as the punk-heavy soundtrack of her party thuds through the walls. 

As Beverly’s behaviour gets more and more out of control the socially aspirant Laurence is beside himself with embarrassment and shame.  Inevitably perhaps tragedy awaits and it is down to Ange to take control.

This is a brilliantly observed and incredibly funny ensemble piece, astutely directed by Vernon Thompson and with fine performances from each of these wonderfully versatile and skilled actors. 

Abigail’s Party runs at The Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne, until tomorrow (Thursday 25th August) with a performance at 7.30pm tonight and two shows at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm tomorrow. Don’t miss it. 

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022