Abigail's Perty

Starring: Alison Steadman, Tim Stern, Janine Duvitski, John Salthouse
BBC Worldwide
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: PG
Available now

As a get-together of neighbours turns from social embarrassment, to personal antagonism to crisis, the audience is manipulated into squirming and laughing but is ultimately shocked. The host of the party,
Beverly, wears low-cut dresses, too much make-up and has a reputation as a man-eating monster. She also manages to turn a social get-together between married couples into a virtual time-bomb of emotional tension...

Currently number 11 in the British Film Institutes list of all-time top 100 British TV Programmes, Abigail's Party is painful to watch - reflecting the lower-middle classes of the 1970's. The production is made more painful today by the terrible 1970s fashions - tasteful decor and good dress sense went out of the window to be replaced, paradoxically, by kitch and flamboyant trends.

Alison Steadman is one of this country's greatest actresses and it is a shame that she never really became a household name. If you've seen Leigh's Nuts in May (1984) you'll find it hard to believe that the drippy hippy is the same actress who was so openly flirtatious and in control of (nearly) early situation in Abigail's Party. Steadman won two Best Actress awards for Abigail's Party.

The rest of the characters all have their guilty little secrets including wife beating and impotency. John Salthouse's Tony is really the most unpleasent character. He appears mild mannered, but once the tension to gets to him he, quite literally lashes out.

One of the funniest, painful play's you're ever likely to see.

I was, however, disappointed to see that there were no extras other than a 6-minute featurette on Alison Steadman's character.

Darren Rea

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