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Arts of the UK 2020: Abigail’s Party at Watford Palace Theatre (Preview)

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LONDON – Set against the backdrop of an evolving Britain of the 70s, this fresh production shows the classic Mike Leigh satire in a new light. Performed in traverse with intimate on-stage seating offering audience the chance to join Beverly and Laurence’s soireé, bringing them closer to the experience.

Abigail’s Party stars Harvey Virdi as Beverly, the role famously originated by Alison Steadman, and is directed by Pravesh Kumar, Artistic Director of Rifco Theatre Company, Watford Palace Theatre’s Resident Company.

Welcome to 1970s suburbia and its heady mix of free-flowing drinks, classic disco and cheese & pineapple sticks. Aspirational Beverly and her estate agent husband Laurence are hosting drinks for their newlywed neighbours. They are joined by a very anxious Susan, who has been banished from her daughter Abigail’s party. As the evening goes on, marital tensions rise and tempers flare as the characters’ true natures are hilariously but ruthlessly exposed.

Harvey Virdi leads the cast as Beverly. Harvey is best known as series regular Dr Misbah Maalik in Hollyoaks, Mrs Malik in Citizen Khan and Teetu’s Mum in Bend It Like Beckham. In theatre she has worked extensively at the RSC and Leicester Haymarket, as well as frequently collaborating with Watford’s own Rifco Theatre Company – both as an actress and a writer (Meri Christmas, Miss Meena and the Masala Queens).

Director Pravesh Kumar said: “I’m thrilled to be directing one of my favourite plays by Mike Leigh. I wanted to bring a freshness to it by casting Harvey Virdi as Beverly and open the play to whole new audience that may not have seen it. I’m really excited to be bringing this production to the Watford Palace Theatre in traverse, with intimate on-stage seating so that our audiences can get a feel part of the party mayhem.”

Abigail’s Party is a play for stage and television, devised and directed by Mike Leigh in 1977. It is a suburban situation comedy of manners firmly rooted in the 1970s. As is now characteristic in the work of Mike Leigh, play was developed in lengthy improvisations exploring the characters with the actors. The production opened in April 1977 at the Hampstead Theatre, returning for a second run in the summer of 1977, and then adapted by the BBC as a Play for Today in November 1977. Alison Steadman famously originated the role of Beverly, whilst married to Leigh.

Abigail’s Party plays from 29th April to 23rd May 2020 at Watford Palace Theatre, 20 Clarendon Road, Watford, WD17 1JZ. Tickets available here

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