Photo Flash: First Look at ABIGAIL'S PARTY at Queen's Theatre Hornchurch
Brand new images of Mike Leigh's cult classic Abigail's Party have been released today. Set down the road from the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch in 'theoretical Romford', this delicious 70s comedy - notorious for its references to cheesy-pineapple and Demis Roussos - is directed by the Queen's Theatre artistic director Douglas Rintoul. The production began performances on 30 August at the Queen's Theatre and will tour to Derby Theatre (26 Sept - 20 Oct), Salisbury Playhouse (30 Oct - 17 Nov) and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg (27 - 29 Nov).
Abigail's Party is widely considered a classic of 20th-century British drama for its tragi-comedy and acute satire on the class-consciousness and social climbing of 1970s Britain. It was made famous by the BBC's Play for Today starring Alison Steadman, which was seen by 16 million viewers.
Playing the gauche, aspirational hostess Beverly is Melanie Gutteridge who is best known for her roles as PC Emma Keane in The Bill and Amy in Not Going Out. Her recent credits include the British-American horror film The Watcher in the Woods (directed by Melissa Joan Hart) and on stage inRoaring Trade at the Park Theatre. She will be joined by Liam Bergin (Eastender's Danny Mitchell, The Marriage of Figaro, Watermill Theatre) as Tony, Amy Downham (Common, National Theatre) as Angela, Susie Emmett (Inherit The Wind, New Vic Theatre) as Susan and Christopher Staines(Wolf Hall, BBC and Our Town, Almeida) as Laurence.
The Queen's Theatre and Derby Theatre have also commissioned a brand new play, Abi. This contemporary response to Abigail's Party is the latest in Derby Theatre's RETOLD, a series of new one-woman plays by some of the most exciting female voices working in contemporary theatre today. These pieces of new work crack open the classics and present well-known stories told afresh from the perspective of a female character. Previous plays in the series includePenelope RETOLD by Caroline Horton, Joan RETOLD written and directed by Lucy Skilbeck and Jinny RETOLD by Jane Wainwright.
Abi is written by Atiha Sen Gupta who was the 2016-2017 writer-in-residence at Theatre Royal Stratford East. In 2009, when she was just 21, her debut play What Fatima Did premiered at The Hampstead Theatre to critical acclaim. The play was also produced in Germany and received The Youth Theatre Prize at the Heidelberger Stückemarkt Festival. In 2014, Sen Gupta's play about police racism, State Red, was produced at the Hampstead Downstairs. She followed this up with Counting Stars, a piece about two Nigerian nightclub toilet attendants working in a club in post-Lee Rigby, post-Brexit Woolwich, which played at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015 and on the main stage of the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 2016. As well as theatre, Sen Gupta also writes for television, having written episodes of Holby City and Skins.
It's been over forty years since Mike Leigh's gauche hostess Beverly slow-danced her way into theatrical history, but what happened to Abigail?
Abi is the story of 15-year-old Abisheera (Abi for short), the granddaughter of Abigail. After one of her regular visits to see her grandmother in hospital, Abi decides to throw her one last party, convinced it will get her beloved Nan back on her feet. But as she tries to clear her head and her grandmother's flat, family secrets begin to surface. Will Abigail's past threaten Abi's already fragile present?
Directed by Derby Theatre's artistic director Sarah Brigham, Abi will star Safiyya Ingar (LAVA, Nottingham Playhouse, Growth, Paines Plough) and will run alongside Abigail's Party at the Queen's Theatre (4 - 22 Sept) and at Derby Theatre (29 Sept - 20 Oct).
Abigail's Party is directed by the Queen's Theatre's artistic director Douglas Rintoul (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Rope, The Crucible) with set and costume design by Lee Newby (James Graham's Labour of Love, Noel Coward Theatre), lighting design by Zoe Spurr and sound design by Ivan Stott.
See photographs below by Mark Sepple!