The CAPE - Centre des Arts Pluriels Ettelbrück is hosting the third edition of its A CAPE'lla Festival. Delano has 2 festival passes to give away.
The A CAPE'lla festival showcases the art of a capp...
Melanie Gutteridge as Beverly and Amy Downham as Angela in “Abigail’s Party”
Photo: Mark Sepple
Doug Rintoul’s take on Mike Leigh’s iconic “Abigail’s Party” has audiences wiping away tears of laughter and reeling from its emotional punch.
Revisiting a genuine cult classic some 40 years down the road may seem like a risky move for a theatre director. But Doug Rintoul, ably abetted by a talented cast and crew, has managed to bring a fresh perspective to “Abigail’s Party”. Watching the play on stage rather than on screen brings its clever script and searing dialogue into sharp focus, thanks to the lack of close-ups. Rintoul points out that this also gives it a slower, more deliberate pace. And over-familiarity with Alison Steadman’s iconic depiction of party host Beverly was washed away thanks to a storming central performance by Melanie Gutteridge at the Grand Théâtre.
Set in 1977, two years before Margaret Thatcher came to power and gave credence to the aspirations of the likes of Beverly and her hard-working real estate husband Laurence, the play is now a wonderful period piece that, in the words of Rintoul, “gives us a mirror to reflect on our times.” The couple have invited new neighbours, the effervescent Angela and the stoic Tony round for introductory drinks. Also tagging along is the mousy divorcée Susan, who is banished from her own house because her 15-year old daughter, Abigail, is having a party. Leigh’s script, which he developed with the original cast, examines the characters’ relationships and their social standing, their dreams, faults and egos. Much hilarity and drama and, ultimately, tragedy ensues.
Rintoul has said that in the context of #MeToo the play took on a different aspect, and certainly there is palpable tension among the audience during one brief struggle between Beverly and Laurence over the record player--she is in the mood for dancing, whereas he wants to hold a conversation with their guests. Rintoul sees Beverly as trapped in her three-year marriage, and her verbal lashing out at Laurence as a symptom of her acquiescence and the surrendering of her dreams. While she and Angela are vivacious and talkative and enjoy enduring relationships with their husbands because they fight, the seemingly meek and humble Susan is divorced from a husband with whom she claims never to have fought.
The set, a typically cheesy open plan living room and kitchen, and the costumes, both by Lee Newby, are perfect. The acting is stupendous, not only from the outstanding Gutteridge, who really owns the stage, but from the entire ensemble. Amy Downham as Angela has the best comic role, but watching Liam Bergham as Tony during his “off” moments reveals an actor truly in tune with his character. It is a marvellous achievement and one that will have many in the audience eager to revisit some of Leigh’s other early works.
“Abigail’s Party” is performed in the studio of the Grand Théâtre on 28 & 29 November at 8 p.m. Both performances are sold out, but it is worth checking with the theatre to see if there are any returns.
The play is a joint production between the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Derby Theatre, Wiltshire Creative & Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg