Review: Abigail’s Party, Ecclesall Parish Hall

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Mike Leigh’s comedy of manners or complete lack of them is an accident waiting to happen.

Beverly and Laurence invite their new neighbours, Angela and Tony for drinks, but their marriage difficulties to unravel in painful and embarrassing circumstances. Susan is invited and Beverly does little to allay her fears about her own daughter Abigails’s party next door.

Set in the 1970s, the scenery is a suitably cheesy and garish orange. Classic oldies thump out such as Donna Summer, Love to Love you Baby and Demis Roussos, Forever and Ever. Killjoy Laurence turns them down to have a conversation. The costumes are apt too. Old-fashioned suits and dated dresses. Director Alison Millar draws good performances from all the players. Leigh’s script doesn’t give much room for the men to stretch their acting muscles. Their contribution in more subtle ways is essential. Tony’s smiles and looks towards Beverly as she increases her outrageous flirtation speak volumes. In sharp contrast, Laurence attempts ineffectually to establish rapport with Sue as his wife belittles him.

It’s the women who shine brightest. Sue Preston as Sue wriggles and squirms as Beverly and Angela insensitively mention her divorce. Michelle Vinson as Angela seems to relish her disastrous marriage. Sara Green as Beverly steals the show as the hostess from hell who flirts, patronises and delivers putdowns and backhanded compliments. Stephen Grigg