"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
Abigail's Party with Alison Steadman and Tim
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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