Abigail’s Party – touring now – have you been invited?

Drunk – moi?

Love to love you baby

We went to see Hannah Waterman last night as the very awful Beverley in Mike Leigh’s seventies play Abigail’s Party, which is touring the country now after a successful West End run. As an amateur actress myself, Beverly is one of those darkly comic parts that I would just love to play. Leigh’s creation of the glamorous, lecherous alcoholic wife of an estate agent obsessed with displaying middle class bourgeois behaviour is a whole lot of car crash fun. I had seen Hannah Waterman in Calendar girls before and found her competent but forgettable on stage. Her Sweeney chasing, New tricks performing, wife slapping father Dennis Waterman, had only got her so far! I deduced. However, after seeing this performance, I revised my opinion, as she was rather good. Not quite so much of a caricature as Alison Steadman in the original play for today in 1977, Hannah captured Beverley’s descent into drunken nastiness and suppressed sexual desire in her emerald green halter neck maxi, to retro perfection. Although set only thirty years ago this was a world where women often still didn’t work, where your social class was still a defining factor of your life chances, and where a cheese and pineapple combo was very much de rigueur. I confess a certain obsession with 70’s lifestyle icons. I would love a pineapple ice bucket and if I could find a re creation of the Beachcomber Bar at Butlins I would be there in my plastic grass skirt like a shot. There is a lot of smoking and drinking in Abigail’s party and while I know the performers only smoke herbal ciggies the auditorium still filled up with smoke as the drunken puffing gathered pace. The social get together from hell is still compulsive viewing even after all this time. Beverly’s sexy dancing to Demis Roussos and her predatory behaviour towards Tony the ex Crystal Palace footballer -turned- computer operator is as fascinating as watching any of those Attenborough nature documentaries. We never actually get to see Abigail herself who is Sue’s daughter. She is having her own party down the road, and we do get the impression from the occasional burst of loud music that it is a much less repressed affair than the one we witnessed this evening at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. If you enjoy a delicious slice of retro suburban irony go and see this, on tour until June.

Ice ice baby