Mike Leigh’s iconic comedy drama, Abigail’s Party, returns to the London stage with former EastEnders star Kellie Shirley playing Beverly, and Ryan Early (Lee Bryce in The Archers) playing her angst-driven husband Laurence.
The 1970s comedy of manners, full of new-found suburban pretensions and social aspirations, was a huge hit when it premiered at the Hampstead Theatre, and the TV adaptation has been voted as one of the greatest British TV programmes by both industry professionals and the public.
Beverly and estate agent husband Laurence are happily ensconced and living the dream in suburbia. They know what records to play, what art prints to buy and what wine to drink. And Beverly just can’t resist the temptation to spread her knowledge and help improve the lives of their neighbours, Tony, Angela and Abigail’s Mum, Susan. What better way to help out than to invite them all for drinks and titbits?
Abigail’s Party is Mike Leigh’s classic 1977 play that was first developed through lengthy improvisations, a style which became the hallmark of Leigh’s future success in film and TV. It first ran at the Hampstead theatre for 104 performances and was due to transfer to the West End, but instead it was whisked into a BBC TV studio and the subsequent broadcast quickly became a cult classic repeated many times over the years.
Director Vivienne Garnett said, “In many people’s minds, Abigail’s Party is the epitome of British suburbia in the 1970s, yet despite being very much ‘of its time’, the almost desperate aspirationalism and materialism are certainly themes we can identify with today. These are characters whom we still recognise, even 44 years after their conception, and it had been a joy to reincarnate them with such a tremendous cast. So, whether you’re a fan of olives or ‘a little cheesy-pineapple one’, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this acerbic tragi-comic drama.”
Kellie Shirley takes on the lead role of Beverly, originally played by Alison Steadman. Kellie is best known as playing Carly Wicks in EastEnders, and Kirsty De La Croix in Sky One comedy series In the Long Run. Her theatre credits include Great Britain (National Theatre) and One Man, Two Guvnors (Theatre Royal Haymarket). She is joined by Ryan Early, best known as Lee Bryce in The Archers.
Brill Productions produces drama across theatre and radio. Run by Clive Brill, its most recent productions include G F Newman’s The Corrupted for BBC Radio 4, starring Toby Jones and Believe it for BBC Radio Comedy starring Richard Wilson. Clive has previously produced and directed two productions at Park 90. Black Chiffon by Lesley Storm, starring Abigail Cruttenden (Offie nominated) and Corpse! by Gerald Moon. Clive is also Producer and Artistic Director of Frinton Summer Theatre.
Abigail’s Party is at Park Theatre 10th November – 4th December 2021.