London Classic Theatre (LCT) Abigail's Party by Mike Leigh Beverly-Rebecca Birch Laurence-Tom Richardson Angela-Alive De-Warrenne Tony-George Readshaw Susan-Jo Castelton Dir: Michael Cabot Photo © SBurnett

Review: Abigail’s Party at The Atkinson, Southport 

How good is it to see great theatre in Southport? 

We’re a town of theatre lovers. Not many other places in the UK could sustain a Little Theatre, a Southport Theatre and an Atkinson all at the same time! 

It was great to see a good crowd at The Atkinson for the opening night of the cult Mike Leigh black comedy classic Abigail’s Party at The Atkinson on Lord Street last night, in a production by London Classic Theatre. 

The show is here until Saturday (6th May), with matinee and evening times available. 

It’s a play that’s familiar to many as one of the greats, and the power of its drama – and its comedy – stands the test of time. 

It’s a car crash that you can see coming and can’t watch and can’t take your eyes off, all at the same time. 

It’s roars of laughter followed by stunned silence and then back again, culminating in a dramatic finale. 

Plot spoiler – Abigail never actually appears in Abigail’s Party. 

Abigail’s Party was premièred at the Hampstead Theatre in 1977, with the role of Beverly being immortalised by Alison Steadman.  A record 16 million people watched its broadcast as Play for Today, underlining its status as a true modern classic and national treasure.

In her suburban living room, hostess from hell Beverly prepares for the arrival of her guests. She and husband Laurence play host to neighbours Angela, Tony and Sue.  

As the alcohol flows and the ‘nibbles’ are handed around, Mike Leigh’s ruthless, achingly funny examination of 1970s British life begins. 

The set is brilliant, 70s kitsch in all its glorious technicolour from the decade that style forgot. The costumes are carefully chosen too as viewers are taken back through the decades. 

Some of the attitudes of the time are evident too, with Laurence as the male breadwinner with a propensity for violent aggression towards his wife that shocks, before his wife Beverly asks nerdy neighbour Angela: “Is Tone violent?” 

“He can be right nasty. Yesterday he told me he wanted to Sellotape my mouth…” 

Each of the five characters are well defined with their fears and their flaws becoming increasingly exposed as the show develops. 

Each appears polar opposite to each other, as the relationships between them develop and then untangle rapidly – like Come Dine With Me, but with extra olives. 

It’s a strong cast, who work together very well in a production where chemistry (most of it acidic) is all important. 

Rebecca Birch sparkles as the overbearing and patronising party animal Beverly; George Readshaw as Tony has a wealth of ways to convey emotion and meaning through monosyllables. 

Alice De-Warrenne is hilarious as Angela, attracting the biggest laughs at times when they’re needed to cut through the tension. 

Tom Richardson plays Laurence, the man on the edge of losing his sanity, and much more, brilliantly, while Jo Castleton is excellent as Abigail’s stressed out Mum, Susan.

A thoroughly enjoyable watch, and one of the few reasons anyone should ever go back to the 70s. 

Age Guidance 14+. Contains strong language.

Abigail’s Party Performance Times & Tickets

Thursday 4 May: 7:30pm
Friday 5 May: 2:30pm & 7:30pm
Saturday 6 May: 7:30pm

Evenings: £25 / £23 concessions
Matinee: £23 / £21 concessions
Group booking: Buy 10 get 11th free 

For tickets please visit The Atkinson website here


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