REVIEW: ABIGAIL’S PARTY (New Victoria Theatre) ★★★★

Stage and TV star Jodie Prenger, Coronation Street and Emmerdale’s Vicky Binns and Daniel Casey, best known as DS Gavin Troy in Midsomer Murders, lead the cast in this comedy 1970s classic now playing at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.

Beverly and husband Laurence are throwing a party for their neighbours, Tony and Angela. Joining them is neighbour Susan whose been banished from the party of her teenage daughter Abigail who lives close by.

The production relies heavily on individual character performances and I’m pleased to say this five-man cast were impressive.

Jodie Prenger was excellent as the overpowering and outrageous hostess Beverley, She is as pretentious and over the top as possible. Her long lingering looks at Tony, touching him at every opportunity were brilliant. Even the way in which she spoke to him, with innuendo’s in abundance, had the audience tittering in a slightly uncomfortable manner. What also amazed me was her prowess at pouring fresh drinks every five minutes for each member of the cast, whilst continuing her dialogue, remembering who was drinking what and in which glass throughout was amazing. Not once did she miss a beat or drop the role she was playing (she’s welcome to host at any party of mine).

Daniel Casey is equally successful in bringing his own take to the role of Laurence, an innately boring suburban estate agent but it is in his interactions with Beverley that the real dynamics of the play work together. One senses in them the hostility of a couple who know each other well and know exactly which of the other’s buttons to press, in order to extract the greatest damage, leading to the shows dramatic conclusion.

Calum Callaghan’s moody, mono-syllabic, Tony, a failed professional footballer, seems to have little love for his talkative, socially confident wife Angela ably played by Vicky Binns. She was nothing short of excellent, even brushing away Beverley’s enquiry as to whether Tony hit her with “he’s not violent, just a little bit nasty” reply.

Last but not least, Rose Keegan captures the polite desperation of Susan with clipped responses and perfect poise, and my heart went out to her more than once as she became the object of pity from the two other women.

With a healthy dose of Demis Roussos, Copious Gin and’ Tonics, 2 x cheesy pineapple sticks and a dramatic climax – Abigail’s Party is a great if not slightly uncomfortable night out.

Reviewed by Neil Mcfarlane

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