Brunton Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 1 & Fri 2 May
Neighbourhood cocktail parties, with their inevitable cheese and pineapple sticks, are something of a quaint 70s throwback, but notions of an aspiring middle class have altered little in the past 30 years, perhaps making London Classic Theatre’s new production more relevant than its kitsch styling might suggest.
Mike Leigh’s iconic suburban comedy of manners sees Beverly (Alice Selwyn) and husband Laurence (Steve Dineen) host a cocktail party for three of their neighbours. As the drinks flow and the tensions rise, the sniping couple barely manage to conceal their dysfunctional marriage.
A fan of Leigh’s film work, director Michael Cabot was instantly charmed by Abigail’s Party. ‘There’s something about the very fine line that Mike Leigh treads, his naturalism and pastiche has always appealed to me, and I thought it would be very interesting as a director to see how that panned out, working with characters that originally came from a devised basis.’
Despite the obvious 70s comedy, Cabot is very clear about the core of Leigh’s work. ‘This play is all about class; about the subtle nuances that divide people as much as bringing people together. Angela comes to Beverly’s home and wants the things Beverly has. From a class point of view I think that is something that’s fairly timeless, and it’s what makes it such a definitive piece.’ He continues, ‘It heralded the start of a major social dynamic that hasn’t really gone away, people valuing themselves for what they have and not for what they are. In a way, Abigail’s Party is quite prophetic.’