We know it can be a mistake turning a book into a film with it sometimes killing the whole story and I am afraid Lindsay Posner’s Abigail’s Party at the Theatre Royal has the same result. Enveloped in orange nuanced lighting, this late 1970s living room is host to hip shaking Beverly, alone on a warm Summer’s night. While she enjoys Donna Summer’s beats, we anxiously wait with her for her husband and her guests to arrive.
Beverly’s strikingly famous orange dress in the film has been redesigned into a horrendous satin kitsch bright green outfit which vulgarly unveils her nude back. However, in all honesty, I was not at all pleased with the way that the character of Beverly was interpreted; she is not extremely rude to her husband. On the contrary, although the couple are irritate one another throughout the play, they remain affectionate and mutually caring. I felt these sweet moments had been completely ignored and cut out from the performance.
A character such as Beverly is indeed a challenge for any actress however I am afraid to say that Hannah Waterman was not a wise casting choice in my opinion. The Beverly which I expected would have been less vicious and loud, more poised, rather polite and funnily frivolous in her party orchestration.
Beverly’s friends Tony and Angela are also not portrayed to their full potential. Although perhaps this is due to the fact that I am familiar with the film adaptation in which Angela is older and rather unique in her big specs and Tony is less handsome and less arrogant. In the play he appears as too much of a Casanova.
Sue (Emily Raymond), my favourite character, was also not given enough depth in characterisation; being too tailored to the stereotype of an old, passed intellectual, bourgeois spinster rather than a cultured, educated and mature, although neurotic, divorced woman. Less painful was the acting of Martin Marquez starring as Laurence although his figure was older than desired and portrayed to be unrealistically grumpy. Despite this, luckily these two performances kept my interest throughout the second act.
In other words, if this had been an amateur production I would have been less harsh and more sympathetic in expressing my opinions but being a West End production, I have to conclude that my disappointment was even greater. Some critics have said that Abigail’s Party ranks as ‘the most painful hundred minutes in British comedy-drama’.Unfortunately after watching Lindsay Posner’s production I would have to agree with this opinion.