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Newbury Dramatic Society - Abigail's Party

22nd to 25th November 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Family favourite

Newbury Dramatic Society: Abigail's Party, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Thursday, November 23 to Saturday, November 25

For anyone thinking of inviting neighbours along for drinks over the festive season, the Newbury Dramatic Society's production of Mike Leigh's excellent Abigail's Party was required viewing.

The party it concerns is not teenager Abigail's, but the more restrained occasion hosted by Beverley and Laurence (Kathleen Kay and Paul Firman) who invite Abigail's mum Susan (Daphne George) along to escape her daughter's party next door.

She meets neighbours Angie and Tony (Fenella Newton and Mike Brook) and the play consists of the conversation between the five, frequently so appallingly crass that it becomes hilarious, but ending with tragedy when the frenetic Laurence suffers a heart attack.

The play requires an excellent cast if the pace is not to drop, as well as the need to establish the difference between the characters; there were no problems here for the five performers.

Kathleen Kay as the over-assiduous, selfish "you may not believe this" Beverley captured exactly what her character required, attempting to seduce phlegmatic Tony, brightly maintaining the facade of friendship with Angie, unsympathetic to her husband and obviously less concerned about Susan's health than if she would be sick on her carpet.

Paul Firman as the harassed, bound-up-in-his-Wibbly-Web-work Laurence matched her performance well and it is his dialogue which pinpoints the undercurrents of the conversation.

As excruciatingly trite nurse Angie, Fenella Newton was nothing short of superb, even brushing away Beverley's enquiry as to whether Tony hit her with "he's not violent, just a little bit nasty", and Mike Brook, via the required lack of expression in face and voice, was absolutely right as her obviously reluctant husband.

There was no lack of facial expression from Daphne George as the divorced wife Susan, constantly fending off enquiries about her marriage from the dreadful Angie and with minimal words cleverly establishing the fact that she was worried sick (literally) about the goings-on at her daughter's party.

Director Alan Davidson and the NDS can be especially proud of this entertaining production which never flagged.

The characters sprang hideously into life - we all know people like them - let's hope we won't meet this Christmas.