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March 2007
Abigail's Party
by Mike Leigh

reviewed by Lorraine Parker in The Isle of Wight County Press 09/03/07
(reproduced by kind permission of the Isle of Wight County Press)

DON'T you hate those awkward social situations?
You know, those ones when you’re smiling through gritted teeth, eyeing up all the best escape routes and fabricating some far-fetched excuse to leave.

Abigail’s Party, the latest production from Cowes Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, took that scenario to the extreme.
This Seventies suburban black comedy tells the story of neighbours who have the social get-together from hell.

All the action takes place at the home of Beverley and Lawrence, who have invited their new neighbours, Angela and Tony, over for drinks.

Beverley’s friend, Sue, also joins them after being turfed out of her own home by her teenage tearaway daughter, Abigail, who has invited half the town to her house party.

Abigail’s Party explores the tensions and tussles for class superiority and the strains of human relationships in a very humorous way.

The production relies heavily on individual character performances and I’m pleased to say this five-man cast were very impressive.
Carolyn Corlett was excellent as the overpowering and outrageous hostess, Beverley, while Ralph Edemaniger played her bullied husband, Lawrence, to perfection.

Beverley is pretentious and over the top in every way. She is the sort of character who will openly bully her husband before shamelessly seducing her new neighbour’s husband in front of all her guests.

Maria Wilkinson was amusing as the dippy yet docile new neighbour, Angela, while her monotone yet manly husband, Tony, was played convincingly by David Fawcett. Sue, the troubled divorcee, was played brilliantly by Fiona Gwinnett.

Sue is subject to constant insensitivity by the other characters, and uses a nervous laugh and gritted teeth to conceal her concerns about her daughter’s party and the embarrassment of her failed marriage.

None of the characters is particularly likable and all are very contrasting, which adds to the humour of this Mike Leigh piece.
It is clear none of the neighbours actually likes each other either and the fact they act so uncomfortable in each other’s company made the performance all the more amusing.

The many awkward moments, never-ending small talk and swipes at character, dress and marital status were very effective in conveying the overall mood of the piece and, as a consequence, the humour.

A directing debut for Amber Beard, Abigail’s Party was extremely entertaining. It was just a shame more people did not go along to Trinity Theatre for the show.

Lorraine Parker

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