Venue: Drama Barn
Abigail’s Party is a play impeccably well suited to the small space offered by the Drama Barn, being entirely set in one room with a focus on the interactions between the characters. Featuring the much inferior party hosted by Beverly (Daisy Hale), it serves as a glaring window into the aspiring middle class of the 70s as she and her husband Laurence (Joseph D’angelo) torture their various guests.
What I wasn’t expecting from this production was the energy that the actors would bring to the roles – usually a more subdued play, Joseph especially brings a fantastically hammy zest, almost a channel of the spirit of Rik Mayall, to his portrayal of Laurence. His interactions with Daisy show a couple at the pinnacle of a power struggle as they each attempt to gain the upper hand with their visitors. Daisy creates a condescending and irritating tone of voice that will keep the words ‘would you?’ and ‘yeah’ lodged in my head for the next few weeks at least.
Angela (Rose Burston) and Tony (Ross Telfer) come in as the other married couple in the play; Rose is a particularly geeky and nasally young woman while Ross is her mostly silent and always angry husband. Rose stands out for her cringe-worthy dancing and attention to mannerisms, most noticeably often adjusting her glasses. Ross, on the other hand, manages to gain attention despite his relatively quiet role; his silence and snappy responses show a man keeping anger and violence bubbling just below the surface.
Susan (Maya Ellis) is the final guest to arrive. Recently divorced, she is deeply uncomfortable throughout the entirety of the play and Maya’s performance is quite played down compared to the rest of the cast.
Setwise, the horrid décor of the TV production is almost mirrored; Beverly and Laurence’s living room is dominated by a three piece suite in the centre with a set of shelves behind holding their requisite overstock of alcohol. In the corner, a plain fold-out table strikes out as a style-destroying design disaster while the wallpaper near offends the eyes. Clearly due diligence has been given to the most horrible of details and the overall result is a creative and effective use of the space available.
One part of the set that did confuse me, however, was a window in one of the walls with only blackness behind it; I believed it to be an actual window to the outside but it turned out to be the location of the kitchen. Characters inside the kitchen often stand in this window, showing them in shadows with nothing around them and rather breaking the immersion of the scene.
I can certainly recommend seeing Declan Dillane’s production of Abigail’s Party this weekend as a particularly energetic and deeply funny staging of the play.