1977 was a memorable year; the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Elvis died, Saturday Night Fever was released and Mike Leigh’s seminal comedy Abigail’s Party was broadcast for the first ever time as BBC Play for Today and became an instant hit. Now in its 40th Anniversary year a new production of this comedy classic Abigail’s Party comes to the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne starring Sherlock’s Amanda Abbington prior to the West End.
It’s forty years since the appalling Beverly first put Donna Summer on the turntable, stacked a plate with little cheesy-pineapple ones, plied her guests with alcohol, cigarettes and Demis Roussos and slow-danced her way across the shag-pile into theatrical history.
The drinks party from hell begins when Beverly and estate agent husband Laurence invite round new neighbours, Tony and Ange, along with nervous divorcee Sue, jittery about the bash her teenage daughter, Abigail, is throwing up the road. As that party reportedly gets out of hand, this one too descends into chaos, and comedy, drama and tragedy combine into an iconic piece of theatre. Hilarious and horribly compelling, Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party is an undisputed classic.
This new adaptation stars Amanda Abbington who is best-known for playing Mary Morstan in Sherlock, Miss Mardle in Mr Selfridge and DS Jo Moffat in Cuffs and is directed by Sarah Esdaile whose previous directing credits include Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads as part of the 2015 Summer Season in Bath and acclaimed productions for West Yorkshire Playhouse; Death of a Salesman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Deep Blue Sea.
Mike Leigh is one of Britain’s most influential theatre and film directors. His numerous awards have included Best Comedy award for the stage play Goose Pimples, a BAFTA for Outstanding Contribution to Cinema, National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film for Life is Sweet, Best Director Award at Cannes Film Festival for Naked, the Palme d’Or at Cannes for Secrets and Lies and an Oscar for Topsy Turvy.
See Abigail’s Party before its West End transfer at the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne from Monday 20 until Saturday 25 March; evening performances at 7.45pm with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm, tickets priced from £19 to £26.50 with selected concessions available. To book call the box office on 01323 412000 or online.