Review of Viva’s production of ‘Abigail’s Party’at The Brook, Soham, on Friday 5th June 2014

Every line a cutting insinuation, Abigail’s Party is one of those unforgettable plays that have you squirming in your seat in sympathy with the characters. Script writer Mike Leigh certainly knows how to throw a verbal punch.

The acting in this production was superb – how each character managed to convey such venom or embarrassment beneath the seemingly banal conversation was amazing.  Every person held your attention. The astute direction by Emma Moat and Maggie Brackenridge had you focusing on the recipients as much as the speakers, who, with careful timing and changes of tone expressed the underlying innuendo of their lines perfectly.

Bev (played by Sarah Dowd-Crosby) with her affected voice and duplicitous comments, was the epitome of the self orientated wife and worst best friend. Her manipulation of her husband and her guests, her one-step-too-far barbed remarks and explicit flirtatious behaviour were pivotal to the tension that emanated from the stage.

Her long suffering husband, Laurence (David Moat), working day and night, constantly at Bev’s beck and call was bound to explode one day and his downfall was inevitable.

Ange (Kirsten Martin) flopped down in the sofa and relaxed for the evening, oblivious to much of the veiled malice that was going on and was quite carefree about her husband and Bev thoroughly enjoying their sensuous ‘dancing’ as they all but smooched together to Bev’s favourite music.

Tony (played by John Bedford) was a wonderful monosyllabic husband, who, given half a chance might have enjoyed himself but ensconced in this suffocating atmosphere could only express a turmoil of emotions in clipped single word answers. The tone and timing of his delivery told us all.

Sue (played by Rania Kurdi) was an exact contrast to Bev, demurely dressed, obviously ill at ease with the excessive drinking and unhinged comments. It was fascinating to watch this actress convey so clearly and realistically and in such a minimalistic way that Sue was there under sufferance because her teenage daughter Abigail was having a party and had ‘asked’ her mother to leave. Every uncertainty Sue suffered and every tragic detail of her life was brought out into the open and insensitively aired and explored by Bev and Ange.

With this powder keg set ready to go the final spectacular scene brought things to its expected dramatic end.

With strong support from the crew, this was indeed a splendid production – well worthy of the message of good wishes from Alison Steadman.

The next production by Viva to enjoy is ‘Avenue Q’ at The Brook, Soham from the 17th to the 19th June 2015.

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