Culture and red tape collide in Hull Truck Theatre
A new play by award-winning writer James Graham brings Hull Truck Theatre’s Year of Exceptional Drama to a close.
Following its Year of Exceptional Drama during Hull UK City of Culture 2017, Hull Truck Theatre continues to produce excellent work that reflects the diversity of a modern Britain. It’s current show, Abigail’s Party, is no exception.
Written in 1977 by Mike Leigh as a play for stage and TV, Abigail’s Party delves into the emerging middle class of the 1970s. With five characters that range from the overbearing and promiscuous hostess, to a taciturn neighbour who never turns down a drink, the story follows their downward spiral from awkward silences and unnecessary enthusiasm, to dark secrets and worrying decisions.
Directed by Amanda Huxtable, Hull Truck Theatre’s Artistic Associate and resident Change Maker, Abigail’s Party is as humorous as it is unsettling. Taking place in British suburbia at a time when fully stocked drinks cabinets, a diverse record collection and fibre optic lamps were considered necessities in the homes of the wealthy, the story begins with Beverly (Katharine Bennett-Fox) as she prepares herself for a night of frivolity. In her case, preparation means drinking gin and bossing around her successful yet downtrodden husband, Lawrence (Duncan MacInnes).
The first guests to arrive are new neighbours Angela (Ani Moss) and Tony (Daniel Ward), with the former more than making up for the latter’s lack of chatter. The final guest is Susan (Rebecca Charles), who arrives in a visibly shaken state due to her 15-year-old daughter, Abigail, holding a raucous party in her own home across the street.
As the story progresses, each character’s inner demons surface to present exaggerated or entirely different personas. Whilst Beverly becomes increasingly pushy and callous, Angela’s drunkenness causes all grace to fly out of the window, and Susan fails to be reassured when the two men return from checking on the party, no longer the friends they were only minutes prior.
To tell more of the plot would give too much away, so instead we’ll simply say that this production of Abigail’s Party is beautifully designed, perfectly cast, and shared in a style that is amusing one minute, distressing the next, and an excellent piece of entertainment all round.
It’s also useful to know the context behind this particular production, in that Amanda Huxtable’s role as an Arts Council England Change Maker is to identify and champion leaders who are currently underrepresented in leadership roles:
“Abigail’s Party gives me the opportunity to put the principles of inclusion that I believe in into this play,” says Amanda. “I knew that placing the neighbours Angela and Tony as a black couple newly moved into the street made sense to me. Angela is a nurse and Tony is quietly having a nightmare having been invited, which is exactly as it would have been for my Mum and Dad in the unlikely event of them being invited all those years ago.”
You can see Abigail’s Party at Hull Truck Theatre until Saturday 20 October. Tickets cost £10-£24.50 and can be booked on 01482 323638 and online.