What would a 2017 play focusing on class, social niceties and keeping up appearances look like? Perhaps it would be based on a series of social media posts or a meal at a newly revamped gastro pub.
Back in 1977, the setting is a drinks party held in the home of the formidable Beverly. Abigail, never seen in the play, is hosting a teenage party while her concerned mother is one of Beverly’s guests. Sarah Esdaile’s production faithfully captures the look and the cultural concerns of the seventies and all of the actors rise to the challenge of conveying the thin veneer of politeness gradually eroded by the effects of alcohol. Amanda Abbington as Beverly, was able to bully and manipulate the other characters with style, keeping her guests “topped up” and the audience enthralled as her party, rather than Abigail’s, spirals towards tragedy.
It is possibly a measure of the significance of this piece that it was well attended on a Monday night, and this touring production is a worthy and respectful forty year anniversary celebration of Mike Leigh’s famous play.
Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, 20 March 2017