The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
March 4, 5, 6 & 7, 2009
by Mike Leigh
2008/2009 – NODA South East Region – District 1 – Drama – Accolade of Excellence
Natalie Colgate – Beverly
Mark Best – Laurence
Anna Quick – Angela
Guy Steddon – Tony
Hazel Starns – Sue
Director’s Assistant – Fiona Cameron
Stage Manager – David Comber
DSM – Zara Spanton
Set Design – David Comber
Lighting – Mike Medway
Sound – Phillip Oliver
Wardrobe – Cherry Briggs
Wardrobe – Margaret Pierce
Properties – Margaret Davy
Properties – Sue Whittaker
Workshop Team – David Comber
Workshop Team – David Collis
Workshop Team – Carl Gray
Workshop Team – Paul Checkley
Workshop Team – Sue Chaplin
Workshop Team – Sheila Neesham
Workshop Team – Margaret Davy
Workshop Team – Judith Berrill
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Anna Barden
Publicity – Rosemary Brown
Publicity Photographs – Lucien Bouchy
Front of House – Betty Dawes
Programme Note #1: Abigail’s Party
“My two favourite descriptions of the play are ‘The most painful hundred minutes in British comedy drama’ and ‘An appalling evening of domestic entertaining in suburbia’.
Originating as a Hampstead Theatre production and first broadcast as part of the Play for Today season, Abigail’s Party is Mike Leigh’s best known television work, and perhaps the most celebrated TV play of the 1970’s. Its enduring popularity has seen it staged in countless theatrical productions around the world, including an award winning production for the Wick in 1984.
This is an Abigail’s Party for a new generation of Wick actors and actresses. It would be pointless to recreate a carbon copy of the original so, whilst we have been faithful to the piece, each performer has really made the character they are playing their own.
I do hope it will make you laugh a lot and make you squirm in your seat sometimes. Preferably, on occasions, both at the same time!
Publicity #1: Abigail’s Party
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: February 12 2009 issue – page 26
Text Header: Let’s get this party started
PREPARE to laugh and squirm in equal measures – Abigail’s Party has been chosen as Wick Theatre Company’s next production.
Mike Leigh’s iconic comic-drama is a satire on the British class system in the 1970s and was a smash-hit on stage and the small screen.
Beverley Moss has invited new neighbours Tony and Angela over for drinks, and what an evening it turns out to be. Susan, another neighbour, has also been asked over, as her teenage daughter Abigail is throwing a party – and mum is definitely not welcome.
The evening starts in typical suburban fashion, with innocuous small talk and all the usual clichés. But Beverly, a cosmetics consultant [played by Natalie Colgate], and estate agent husband Laurence [Mark Best] start sniping at each other as the alcohol kicks in.
The sound of rock music coming from Abigail’s titular party gets louder, causing poor Susan to worry what is going on. As the drink flows, Beverley’s flirting with Tony escalates, while Laurence, who aspires to the finer things of life, holds forth about art and deplores his wife’s choice of music.
Fears, hopes and ambitions are mercilessly exposed, and supremely tactless remarks from Beverly and Angela cause tensions to finally snap, with devastating results.
Director Tony Brownings completes his top-notch cast with Guy Steddon and Anna Quick as new neighbours Tony and Angela. Hazel Starns plays Susan.
Abigail’s Party will be performed at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick from Wednesday, March 4, to Sunday [sic], March 7, with curtain-up at 7.45pm.
Tickets, priced £8.50, are available from the box office, on 01273 597094, or online, at www.wicktheatre.co.uk
Publicity #2: Abigail’s Party
Publication: West Sussex Gazette
Publication Data: February 25, 2008 issue – page 12
Text Header: Natalie is loving playing the grossest hostess
Natalie Colgate laughs, “I keep hearing that’s she’s a gorgon. At least that’s what the director keeps telling me.” But she admits she’s got a bit of a soft spot for Beverly, the hostess from hell in Abigail’s Party.
It’s her latest rôle with the Wick Theatre Company, which is staging Mike Leigh’s classic play at the Barn Theatre in Southwick Street, Southwick, from March 4 to 7 at 7.45pm
Beverly Moss has invited new neighbours Tony and Angela over for drinks, and what an evening it turns out to be – one that will make you laugh and squirm. Susan, another neighbour, has also been asked as her teenage daughter, Abigail, is throwing a party and mum is definitely not welcome.
The evening starts in typical suburban fashion, with innocuous small-talk and all the usual clichés. But Beverly, a cosmetics consultant, and estate-agent husband Laurence [Mark Best] start sniping at each other once the alcohol kick in…. As the evening progresses, fears, hopes and ambitions are mercilessly exposed. And into this potent mix is thrown Beverley’s supreme tactlessness.
But Colgate remains resolutely fond of her, “I know she is awful but she’s awful in quite a naïve way. She is now awful in a vicious ‘I want to trample all over you’ kind of way. It is just that she is convinced she is totally superior to everyone else!”
Inevitably, think Beverly and you think, Alison Steadman, who create the rôle and made it her own. “But I am just trying to play the character and not think about that. I have consciously not looked at the performance again, but every now and again I hear Alison Steadman’s voice in mine and I think ‘Oh no!’, but that’s just the character.”
As for the piece itself: “I think it’s about relationships. It’s about how we get along with each other, how different people react. You have got the Angela character, who wants to make everybody happy, and you’ve got the Beverley character, who is convinced she is right about everything.”
Tickets cost £8.50 from the box office on 01273 597094 or through www.wicktheatre.co.uk
Review #1: Abigail’s Party
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: March 12 2009 issue – page 37
Reviewer: Sam Woodman
Text Header: What a swell party that was!
AUDIENCES were whisked back to the 1970s as Wick Theatre Company staged Mike Leigh’s classic comedy drama, Abigail’s Party. The stage at Southwick’s Barn Theatre was transformed into a living room from 40 years ago, complete with onyx cigarette lighter, Vincent van Gogh print on the wall and model Mini on the bookshelf [full of Shakespeare and Dickens, of course].
Set somewhere in suburbia, the play tells the story of five people. Beverley and estate agent husband Laurence host an evening of drinks for neighbours Angela and Tony, who have recently moved to the area, and divorcée Sue, who has been ordered out of her home while teenager Abigail throws the titular party. From Beverley’s flirtations with [or should that be “at”?] Tony and Angela’s dancing, to Sue’s reluctance to be at the evening, anyway, it is a truly uncomfortable 100 minutes of theatre – but expertly written and hugely entertaining.
Abigail’s Party has been performed countless times around the world, with the most famous production being the television play, which starred Alison Steadman as Beverley.
In his programme notes, director Tony Browning’s wrote: “It would be pointless to recreate a carbon copy of the original so, while we have been faithful to the piece, each performer has really made the character they are playing their own.” And make the characters their own they certainly did. The part of Beverly wasn’t played by “Natalie Colgate playing Alison Steadman playing Beverly” – Natalie Colgate played Natalie Colgate’s Beverly – as cringe worthy as ever, but very much her own.
The same is true for the other performers – Mark Best as Laurence, Anna Quick as Angela, Guy Steddon as Tony and Hazel Starns as Sue. It takes a confident company to stage a play as well-known and well-loved as Abigail’s Party, and Wick’s confidence was not misplaced in the slightest. Another set of top-notch performances from the Wick Team – both on stage and behind the scenes – led to another thoroughly entertaining evening.
Review #2: Abigail’s Party
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
Text Header: Superbly cast show is a real party treat
MIKE Leigh’s classic 1970s play depicts a nightmare evening when Beverley and Laurence invite neighbours round for drinks. As the alcohol flows, tongues loosen, arguments start and veneers crack with the evening ending in tragedy.
The creation of a rôle occasionally enters the public memory, becoming forever associated with that actor’s performance. This is the case with Alison Steadman’s Beverley – a monstrous creation that always springs to mind when considering this play.
All credit therefore to Natalie Colgate for not aping Steadman, but for giving us her own version of the hostess from hell. She may waft around in chiffon but she is a predator – both flirtatious and crushing. She dominates by being forcibly solicitous whilst making snide remarks.
This production, which is superbly cast, moves like a well tuned engine. Guy Steddon’s dialogue may be monosyllabic but his delivery and facial expressions speak volumes whilst Anna Quick is a comic delight as his gauche wife forever saying the wrong thing. As Beverley’s much put upon husband, Mark Best gives a robust performance and is most realistic in the heart attack scene. Hazel Sterns captures her character’s fragility yet manages to extract humour as well.
Review #3: Abigail’s Party
Publication: Remote Goat – online
Publication Data: March 5 2009
Reviewer: Jill Lawrie
Text Header: “Cringingly funny 70’s cult drama”
The Wick Theatre Company chose Mike Leigh’s classic iconic 70’s Abigail’s Party to be their latest production, having first produced it in 1984. Originally a West End sell out with Alison Steadman playing the lead, followed by a TV hit attracting an audience of 16 million!
This play is firmly fixed in 1970’s suburbia, when houses sold for £21,000! The set used was a fabulous portrayal of the time. Garish wallpaper, leather sofa, open plan kitchen, the inevitable corner cocktail bar, animal print rug and some wonderful nostalgic props including fibre optics, macrame plant holder, pineapple ice bucket and a radiogram complete with LP’s!
Beverley is the airhead social climbing wife of Laurence, a workaholic estate agent with a taste for the arts. She has created a tasteless suburban home and is keen to show it off to her new neighbours ~ Angela, a nurse and her husband Tony, a curt ex Crystal Palace footballer, now a computer operator. Susan, a divorcee completes the line up, having left her wayward 15 year old daughter Abigail, throwing a party in her home.
This mismatched group plough their way through much alcohol and tobacco, and as the G and T’s flow so the sniping starts between Beverley and Laurence. He gets called away for work and Beverley moves in on Tony flirting outrageously and embarrassing Susan, who is incapable of sustaining the quantity of alcohol consumed by Beverley and Angela! Laurence returns and is forced to dance uncomfortably with Susan while Beverley can’t keep her hands off Tony! The evening however comes to a crashing end leaving Beverley still unable to connect to the severity of the situation!
This cast of 5 truly brought the decade to life. Natalie Colgate (Beverley) was superb as the domineering hostess with her provocative dancing and intimidating nature. She epitomised the character completely. Mark Best (Laurence) excelled as her hen pecked provider and the chemistry between the other 3 characters Anna Quick (Angela) Guy Steddon (Tony) and Hazel Starns (Sue) was flawless.
This was a first class production greatly enjoyed by a large and appreciative audience and full credit goes to all those involved for the excellent set, props and nostalgic fashion disasters of the period!
Review #4: Abigail’s Party
Publication: N.O.D.A – National Operatic and Dramatic Association
Reviewer: Phillip Hall – Regional representative for South East Region District 1 [Mid Sussex] Text: Content
Everyone is so well acquainted with Beverly and her doomed social gathering that the temptation for any director and cast must be to attempt a recreation of Alison Steadman’s performance. Wick made no such mistake. This was quite original with an excellent and inspired cast. Everything about this production was as one would wish. The dialogue was clear and flowing, the set was very well furnished and uncluttered and the background music was at exactly the right level. On a couple of occasions the dialogue continued during the audience laughter, but audiences are so unpredictable!
Natalie Colgate was delightfully revolting Beverly. She played the rôle admirably and, although well stoked with alcohol, never descended to playing the stereotypical stage drunk. Beverly needs to be such an embarrassment as to make the audience feel uncomfortable. Natalie did just that! How one felt sorry for Mark Best’s Laurence – completely down-trodden and uncomfortable in his own home. Mark conveyed his frustrations extremely well and almost made us feel happy for his demise. Angela and Tony, Anna Quick and Guy Steddon, were a perfectly pair. Anna also managed to play a very controlled drunk simply becoming louder and more garrulous. Guy responded to the rest of the cast by cleverly conveying the fact that he had now wish to be there in the first place. Poor Sue! Hazel Starns looked and played the part of a woman torn between two nightmares; unhappy at this party and unwelcome at that of her daughter. She conveyed he discomfort admirably.
Overall, one can only say that this was an excellent production which Tony Brownings and his cast have every reason to be well satisfied.
Comment #1: Abigail’s Party
Publication: Wick Newsletter
Publication Data: July 2009
Heading: ABIGAIL DOES IT AGAIN!
Playing to packed houses and receiving a whole raft of great press reviews weren’t enough for Abigail’s Party. Tony Brownings and team have won an “Accolade of Excellence” from NODA in Wick’s very first months of membership.
So Tony, along with assorted members of cast and crew, turned up at the Priory School in Lewes on a very wet Saturday afternoon to receive the official certificates during the NODA South East Region day.
Handing it over, Phillip Hall, our district representative, was quick to point out that the award had nothing to do with our being new members! He considered the whole production to be absolutely first class, and was particularly impressed by the fact that Wick did not attempt a recreation of the well-known version starring Allison Steadman. The show, he said, “was quite original with an excellent and inspired cast”.[/showhide]