Abigail’s Party (MTC) – theatre review

Ten minutes into Abigail’s Party, I was thinking, “if only the playwright (renowned British scribe Mike Leigh) had killed off all his characters”. Then we wouldn’t have to sit through the rest of this drivel. I was looking around, disinterested in the material. The whole sorry episode seemed simply mindless nonsense. Fast-forward another 90 minutes and I was right. Most of it was so bland.

This would have to be the worst MTC play I’ve seen in years. Just why they included it in the 2018 season I have no idea. It was a mistake. If they insisted on including a period comedy, then at least make it accessible to an Australian audience. Instead we get a bunch of downright boring Poms.

Desperate to impress, Beverly Moss (Pip Edwards) has invited her neighbours around for a decadent evening of cheese sticks. Her modus operandi is to bully those around her into submission. Her husband, Laurence (Daniel Frederiksen) is a real estate agent who brings home the bacon; but he’s colourless. Beverly and Laurence have their fair share of issues, which escalate during the course of the evening.

In their company are Angela (Zoe Boesen) and Tony Cooper (Benjamin Rigby). They only moved in a couple of weeks ago. Tony used to be a professional soccer player. Quick tempered, he doesn’t always treat Angela well. Then there’s uptight Susan Lawson (Katherine Tonkin); whose 15-year-old daughter – “Abigail” in the play’s title – is having a loud party.

As a copious amount of alcohol is poured, this little “friendly” gathering descends into an evening of social awkwardness, outrageous flirting and put-downs.

Perhaps Abigail’s Partywas funny in its day (it was written in 1977), but that day was a considerable time ago. I dare say tastes have changed considerably. Most of it I didn’t find remotely humorous – just sad and dull. I kept hoping that something of consequence – something to lift the tone –would happen. But apart from an incident 10 minutes from curtain call, nothing did.

So, while Mike Leigh may have set a new standard for audacious domestic parody way back when, the world has moved on. As far as I am concerned, it can take Abigail’s Party with it. It should be marked “never to be seen again”.

The gaudy, colourful set (the set designer is Anna Cordingley), including its centrepiece – all in orange – featuring a shagpile carpet and large bookcase is just there, but I don’t believe it is used to full effect. The performances are predominantly what I would call “try hard”, as distinct from impressive. Nor did the direction from Stephen Nicolazzo (Dangerous Liaisons) impress me.

Abigail’s Party is playing at Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, until 21 April 2018.

* I saw the first preview performance of the play.

Alex First

Other reviews you might enjoy:

8 thoughts on “Abigail’s Party (MTC) – theatre review

  1. * I saw the first preview performance of the play.
    So why the hell are you reviewing it? Poor form.

    This is a terrible review of a really good show. You haven’t mentioned anything that the play is actually about underneath is pretty surface. You know, like, um, capitalism, whiteness, misogyny, racism, familial pain… all that stuff. You can dislike it but you have to be more thorough in your criticism of the material and think harder about why they would put it on in 2018. I’ve seen heaps of mtc plays and the show i saw on Saturday was one of my favourites. It’s not the show you have described. It’s an incredibly dark and messed up play if you really listen to it and dig deeper (like most of the mixed audience did on the night i saw it). And the acting, design and direction are all fucking great.

    Maybe we saw different shows.

    But don’t publish reviews of first previews. It’s a shit move.

  2. I agree with the reviewers comments. I suspect there was no intermission to stop the audience escaping.

  3. I agree with the reviewer, this was an absolute boor. It had nothing todo with today, was overacted to the nth degree the english accents were totally false and 10 mins in I was wanting to leave. Why why did they want to revive it . Leave it dead

  4. Agree with Wes. Obviously this reviewer hasn’t been able to dig a little deeper. The two main female leads do a fantastic job and they deserve kudos for their performance. Poor review.

  5. That’s totally cool. Fine to not like it. Not fine to publish critique of a preview without an argument.

  6. I agree with the reviewer. Whilst the “bigger” issues were evident – to the point of slapping the audience in the face with them, it was an appalling production. Miscast to some degree, set design impressive to the eye but not used well, and overall a try hard production. Very disappointing

  7. The set and costumes were terrific; the acting good, but the direction – well? The “slapstick” drinks pouring ( from what were obviously water bottles) – this is not a slapstick work – and the complete lack of imagination at the ending let the company down badly.

  8. Completely agree with this review. The worst play put on by the MTC in years and has me questioning my subscription. I feel sorry for the actors. Such a dated play with no relevance to today’s Australia. It was not challenging or thought provoking – it was incessant, awkward, unrealistic drivel. Mike Leigh obviously couldn’t work out an end to all the ridiculous goings on in this play so he took the easy way out. Why the MTC can’t produce more contemporary Australian plays instead of this rubbish is beyond me.

Comments are closed.