Going to see Abigail’s Party is like watching a 1970s stage version of hit US TV show Desperate Housewives: it’s disturbing, well observed and very, very funny.
Interestingly while many plays and sitcoms have used suburbia as a backdrop for the action, Abigail’s Party sees suburbia as the problem.
From the outside it might appear that the characters have a happy life with their house in the suburbs, new car in the driveway and expensively decorated home, but behind the walls they are trapped, bored, miserable and consumed with barely concealed hatred for one another.
And then middle class social climber and sexually frustrated Beverly (Hannah Waterman) decides to invite some of the neighbours around for a party, plying them with booze.
The more the evening goes on, the more ugly little secrets are revealed by the suburbanites and the more you realise this idyllic part of commuter belt London is rotten to the core.
In fact the play has quite a bit in common with Greek tragedy: all the action is set in one room, serving to force the drunk and disagreeable characters together until they crack under the pressure of one another’s company, one by one.
It also expertly and mercilessly satirises the emerging middle classes of the 1970s, for example when Angela asks Beverly if her candelabra is real silver and she responds: “Oh yes. Silver plate.”
Performances were strong and funny from all the cast members and just as good as the famous television version, which was placed 11th in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000 and also in a Radio Times poll for the 40 greatest TV shows on British television, published in August 2003.
The decade Abigail’s party is set in might be the 1970s, but the problems of the characters, trapped in a suburban nightmare, are just as relevant today as they ever were.