You’re invited to Abigail’s Party, here in Norwich from 27 March. Ahead of the show, we’ve rounded up 5 things you should know to get you in the party mood:
- It’s a Mike Leigh masterpiece
First staged in 1977, Abigail’s Party was written and directed by playwright Mike Leigh. He’s still one of the country’s top dramatists; you might have seen his BAFTA-nominated 2014 film Mr Turner, which starred Timothy Spall (Harry Potter, The Last Samurai) as the British landscape painter. In 2004, Leigh was also nominated for an Oscar for his drama Vera Drake, in which Imelda Staunton gave a riveting performance as a woman who performs illegal abortions.
Leigh is famous for the way his use of improvisation during rehearsals, which allows his plays to present realistic characters with recognisable emotions. Nowhere is that more true than in Abigail’s Party; it’s full of characters who we laugh at, but in whom we recognise something of ourselves.
- We’ve got Abigail’s Party to thank for Alison Steadman
We loved her as overbearing mother Pam in Gavin and Stacey, and her role in Fat Friends is fondly remembered. But Alison Steadman came to fame when she created the role of Abigail on stage, as well as in the BBC TV movie of the production the same year. She would quickly be snapped up for the lead role in Little Voice, and her career went from strength to strength. She would carry on working with Mike Leigh (whom she would later marry) in televised versions of plays like Nuts In May and Hard Labour.
- It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce the identity of our star
This production of Abigail’s Party stars Amanda Abbington, easily one of the funniest actors working today. She’s instantly recognisable from her role as Mary, wife of Doctor Watson, on Sherlock. It’s a show which gave her the opportunity to demonstrate her ability for action scenes, something we might not have expected from her previous appearances in Doc Martin and Mr Selfridge.
She’s joined in this production by Ben Caplan (Call The Midwife’s PC Peter Noakes, who finished up marrying Miranda Hart’s character). Ben has just finished a West End Run in Sunny Afternoon, the Kinks musical – which comes to Norwich just a few days after Abigail’s Party.
- We L-O-V-E Demis Roussos
We’re back in the 70s, and when Beverley needs some sophisticated music for her dinner party, she turns her attention straight to Demis Roussos. The Greek pop, folk and rock singer started out in the band Aphrodites’ Child (which also included Vengelis, the composer behind Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner).
Roussos would go on to achieve solo success following his debut single Shall We Dance, and he would sell 60 million albums worldwide by the time of his death in 2015. Songs like Forever and Ever, Goodbye and Quand je t’aime were huge hits, and Beverley plays his record as a way of impressing her guests, commenting breezily that he “doesn’t sound” fat.
- The catering is excellent
As Beverley well knows, it isn’t a party without a plate loaded up with cheesy pineapple ones. Just picture that 70s spread – an arctic roll out the freezer, maybe a prawn cocktail or two. If you’re lucky, you won’t lose your chunk of bread in the cheese fondue – but don’t worry, there’s sure to be a vol-au-vent or two to tide you over!
The party will begin at 7.30pm sharp on Monday 27 March, and lasts until Saturday 1 April. Please RSVP at the Theatre Royal website.