Review: Queen’s Theatre revives Abigail’s Party while new production Abi gives classic story modern twist

PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 September 2018

Abigail's Party. Picture: Mark Sepple

Abigail's Party. Picture: Mark Sepple

Mark Sepple

Cheese-pineapple sticks, 70s music and a lot of Bacardi.

Abi. Picture: Mark SeppleAbi. Picture: Mark Sepple

These are just some of the things that stuck in my brain after watching the BBC adaptation of Abigail’s Party for the first time about 10 years ago.

And once again, these are a few of the superficial elements of the Mike Leigh play which stood out to me when I went to see it brought to life at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch.

Thanks to the fantastic timing, original portrayal of each of the characters and tension built up throughout the show, the cast recreate the best version possible of a classic play.

Actress Melanie Gutteridge, who stars Beverley, put her own spin on the party hostess from hell without changing her altogether, making you sympathise, laugh and feel anger towards her.

Amy Downham, Liam Bergin, Susie Emmett and Christopher Staines, who play Angela, Tony, Sue and Lawrence, also equally add something both funny and awkward to the revival, making it a very entertaining watch.

To coincide with the adaptation, Abi, a new spin-off play commissioned by The Derby Theatre and Queen’s Theatre, set in today’s times where Abigail’s granddaughter is preparing to host a party of her own, has also hit the Horcnhurch community venue’s stage.

Although little physical activity takes place on stage, Safiyya Ingar, who plays Abi, manages to use this to her advantage, roaming around the space freely without it feeling as if she’s moving just for the sake of it.

Abi fills in some gaps of what writer Atiha Sen Gupta believes could have happened on the night of the original party and highlights everything that is wrong with the racial and misogynistic jokes that were made in Abigail’s Party.

The play remains a classic and I think it will do for a very long time but Abi has got to be commended for its bravery in tackling these issues that are so deeply ingrained in the general culture of the 70s play.

Safiyya said: “Mike Leigh’s work is incredibly clever so doing a new play based on what he had already done was daunting but exciting, especially as Atiha’s writing made it feel like a story in its own right.

“As soon as I read the script, I knew that I wanted to be part of it.”


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