Abigail's Party, a stage then TV hit in its day, doesn't have massive universal significance so it isn't a classic. But, in the hands of director Robert Stevens, a fairly inconsequential play becomes a fine evening's theatre.
Set in the seventies, this is a period piece about suburban lower middle-class social aspirations colliding with the culture of the next lot up, the "middle middle class". It starts with a stilted gathering of neighbours at one of their houses but ends in outrageous chaos.
The period set from Carole Philip is superb; so is that ghastly suite of furniture - plastic and bright orange.
Casting is outstanding: the five contrasting characters are played with subtlety. There's boring workaholic estate agent Laurence (Phil Lowe) and his sexually frustrated wife Beverley (Alison Hope), with their pooterish accents. There's the garrulous Angela (Holly Gillanders) and her husband Tony (John Parker), a glowering, monosyllabic ex-footballer who looks like a boxer. And there's Susan (Michelle Smith), who's suffering on two fronts: she's not only putting up with the other four; her teenage daughter, the unseen Abigail, is having a house-wrecking party next door.
The social embarrassment and awkwardness, the intra-marital tensions, the flirting between Beverley and Tony, the faux pas from Angela; all these and more are beautifully done.
It's amazing how times have changed. What was once quite go-getting, for instance frozen pizza, is now a bit chav, and people smoke fags as if they're good for you.
Go see, if you can get a seat.