“Do you like Demis Roussos?”
There must be a market for a completely immersive version of Abigail’s Party – that said, there’s probably already been one in Edinburgh – but given how close Suba Das’ production brings us to the gin and cheese and pineapple in an ingenious in-the-round staging here, it might actually be too much to bear. Seated around David Woodhead’s brilliantly observed living room set design and the most lurid orange carpet you ever did see, there really is no escape from this most awkward of social occasions – Das dares us not to flinch not only from Abigail’s gaze but from that of the audience members around us whose presence equally cannot be ignored.
The play remains a classic – Natalie Thomas’ neurotic party host Beverly nails a voice that could crack glass and works in a satisfying amount of vulnerability in with the viciousness with which she flails as the party spirals out of control. Patrick Moy as her tense husband Laurence builds powerfully as his patience and small talk is worn increasingly thin and resentment finally explodes. Cary Crankson and Emily Head’s new neighbours are just as excruciatingly entertaining to watch – Crankson in particular standing out, rounding off a marvellously prolific year – and Jackie Morrison’s Sue completes the cast in gormless wonder.
And as the one-liners ping around the increasingly claustrophobic auditorium, the atmosphere growing ever more toxic and the gin bottles being emptied at a rate of knots, there’s almost something of an endurance test here – a party from which you can’t wait to escape but yet from which you cannot tear your eyes. For all its commentary on class in the UK of the 1970s, the pernicious schtick of determined social climbers remains as relevant today as it ever did. And the archetypal characters are still recognisable in all their cringeworthy glory. I recommend making the trip to the Curve but you’ve only got til Saturday to RSVP…