When I saw Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh was advertised at Darlington Hippodrome, I knew I had to see it.

Like most of Leigh’s work, the play is a commentary on the British class system. In Beverly’s living room, the audience laughs at the nuances of the middle class and its pretensions.

As a big fan of the BBC’S ‘Play for today’ 1977 adaptation with most of the original stage cast including Alison Steadman and Janine Duvitski, I’ve read the play a few times, and I thought London Classic Theatre’s version was very loyal to the original.

The set was great and really transported the audience to 1970s suburbia, complete with hideous wallpaper and a brown leather three-piece suite.

The Northern Echo: Rebecca Birch as Beverly in Abigail's Party at Darlington Hippodrome. Picture: Sheila BurnettRebecca Birch as Beverly in Abigail's Party at Darlington Hippodrome. Picture: Sheila Burnett (Image: Sheila Burnett)

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Beverly was played by Rebecca Birch (Victoria, My Mother Said I Never Should) and she was hilarious.

She was over the top, self-absorbed, and completely in her own world.

The play opens with Beverly pouring herself a drink, lighting a cigarette, and dancing to Love To Love You baby by Donna Summer.

Her comic timing was spot-on and her interactions with Tony were cringe-worthy, along with her response to nearly everything being: “great.”

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Laurence, Beverly’s long-suffering husband, was played by Tom Richardson (The Snow Queen, Sherlock).

Richardson also had great comic timing and the scene where he gets worked up over making “a little sandwich” in which he is ridiculed by Beverly while eagerly trying to be polite to Susan was so awkward and real that the audience couldn’t help but laugh at the couple’s dysfunctional relationship.

Angela, the meek and clueless nurse and wife of Tony, was played by Alice De-Warrenne (Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever, The Merry Wives of Windsor).

De Warrenne had brilliant physicality throughout. Her use of movement in a scene where she has hula-hoops on her fingers and Beverly asks her to pass her cigarettes over was genius.

The Northern Echo: Alice De-Warrenne as Angela, Tom Richardson as Laurence, and Rebecca Birch as Beverly. Picture: Sheila BurnettAlice De-Warrenne as Angela, Tom Richardson as Laurence, and Rebecca Birch as Beverly. Picture: Sheila Burnett (Image: The Anvil)

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Another great comic sequence was Angela’s dance with Tony which was the best worst dance I’ve ever seen and was comedy gold.

There were times when I thought vocally De-Warrenne could have toned it down as her nasal vocal quality did sound rather ‘put on’ but overall I enjoyed her performance.

Tony was played by George Readshaw (Extraordinary, Moonlight and Magnolias) who somehow managed to keep a straight face throughout, and probably deserves a medal.

Tony is rude, a man of few words, and has a short fuse when Angela is grating on him. His awkward and steamy dance with Beverly was hilarious and again, his comic timing was great.

In response to Beverly asking him if he likes Feliciano, he paused, blinked, and said “yes.”

The Northern Echo: Laurence and Beverly make an unlikely couple. Picture: Sheila BurnettLaurence and Beverly make an unlikely couple. Picture: Sheila Burnett (Image: Sheila Burnett)

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Susan was played by Jo Castleton (Somewhere Boy, Boeing Boeing) who was the ‘straight man’ of the piece.

Her facial expressions said a thousand words and the moment toward the end when she shouts at Beverly to shut up felt long overdue.

Castleton probably had the most difficult job with the other two female characters being so in-your-face.

Castleton did a great job with Susan and was reserved, awkward, and baffled by Beverly and Angela throughout.

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Projection and use of voice was impressive. We were sat in the dress circle and heard every word of dialogue.

The costumes screamed 1970s with Beverly’s glamourous long dress. I’ll be forever grateful that men aren't still wearing flares in the year 2023.

Overall, it was a fantastic night with great talent on show. The interaction between the characters was so entertaining.

For a play where nothing much happens, everyone’s eyes were locked on the stage. It was definitely a night worthy of a cheesy pineapple stick.

London Classic Theatre’s run at Darlington Hippodrome continues until Saturday, June 17. Tickets are available at:darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk/whats-on/Abigails-Party