BWW Review: ABIGAIL'S PARTY at Grand Théâtre
From the 27th to the 29th of November, the Grand Théâtre delighted Luxembourg with the lovely play Abigail's Party. Comedies in English are not that common around the Grand Duchy, so it was no surprise to learn that all three performances were sold out weeks before the opening night. The show was directed by Douglas Rintoul, the artistic director of the Queen's Theater Hornchurch, a man who is no stranger to the artistic scene of Luxembourg. Just last week, the Grand Théâtre presented A Quiet Place, a modern opera that takes place in suburban America, where we learn about the lives and struggles of a normal family. Abigail's Party, in similar fashion, is set around the same time period, and also focuses on an evening spent in the middle class suburbs of a British town. While their style and tones are naturally not similar, the traits they share make room for some interesting comparisons, when thinking in perspective.
The plot revolves around a little get-together organized by Beverly (Melanie Gutteridge) and Laurence (Christopher Staines), to welcome Angela (Amy Downham) and her husband Tony (Liam Bergin) to the neighbourhood. This gathering also allows their neighbour Susan (Susie Emmett) to leave her own house for a few hours, where her teenage daughter Abigail is throwing a high school party with many of her friends. As the night progresses, and in the midst of alcohol and smoke, the five characters gradually reveal the best and the worst of their personalities, through awkward moments of dialogue and hilarious interactions. With such a reduced number of actors and with nothing more than a break halfway through to divide the acts, the real challenge of this play was to keep up a steady pace, while displaying a believable and fluid chemistry between those on stage. This was easily achieved by all members of the cast, who managed to maintain a great rhythm and perfectly synchronize their interventions and jokes.
Beverly is perhaps the most important of the five characters, since it is by her hand that most of the narrative progresses. Gutteridge was great, giving us a strong and determined woman, who seems to be in control of the little things in her relationship, but who fails to find happiness in this married life. Laurence, too, is incapable of finding fulfillment, deciding instead to focus on little more than his career and in meaningless petit-bourgeois pleasures, such as the purchase of hardcover books he will never read. Their relationship is tense and full of sarcasm, and it is in this psychological friction that we find some of the funniest exchanges in the play. We could argue that Staines was the best actor in Abigail's Party, but it must be noted that Laurence had a bit more substance to play with, allowing for a greater range of emotions and mannerisms, as well as some of the most sarcastic lines.
The most entertaining of all, however, was Angela, the clueless nurse who is too innocent to recognize anyone's flaws. Her high pitch voice reminded us of Miranda Richardson's Queen Elizabeth from Blackadder II, with a somewhat similar tone and enthusiastic expressions. Her dance scene with Laurence was probably the most hilarious moment of the show and, even though this character is quite one dimensional, Downham manages to pull it off remarkably well.
Yet another great night at the Grand Théâtre, our best wishes to everyone who made this show possible.
Image credit: Mark Sepple