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Abigail's Party

"Abigails Party - the more you watch the better it gets

"It is my all time favourite play ever, it is sooo clever.

"you have to see it to know it..."

Abigail's Party with Alison Steadman and Tim Stern

Originally screened as part of BBC's Play for Today series in 1977, Abigail's Party is among Mike Leigh's most celebrated pieces, with his then-wife Alison Steadman appallingly brilliant as what Alan Bennett described as the "brutal hostess" at a ghastly suburban soiree. The Abigail of the title never appears--rather, the dull thud of her lively teenage party forms a distant backdrop (and contrast) to an excruciating evening of chilled red wine, olives and the music of Demis Roussos. Steadman plays the overbearing Beverley, an Amazonian mass of frustrated sensuality in a low-cut party frock. Tim Stern is her small, stressed estate-agent husband. The guests are Janice Duvitski as Angela, a nurse whose quite spectacular gormlessness shields her from the stilted social awkwardness quietly raging around her, John Salthouse as Tony, her taciturn husband and Harriet Reynolds as Sue, the gangly and miserably nervous mother of Abigail.
Rather than play for gags, Leigh and his actors mercilessly turn the screw of embarrassment through a series of too-true-to-life exchanges of dialogue, the stuff of all our collective worst memories of encounters with neighbours, aunts and office colleagues. Often misread as a satirical parade of suburban grotesques, Abigail's Party probes deeper than that, touching on nerves of anxiety and repression that throb behind the net curtains of modern England, culminating not in farce but tragedy.

On the DVD: Abigail's Party is perfectly reproduced here in all its 1970s garishness. The one extra is a short featurette, focussing on Alison Steadman's playing of Beverley, with comments from the original actors in the TV series and Peter York marvelling at her "paint-scraping" voice.

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