Review: Abigail’s Party, Opera House Manchester

This touring production of Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party opts for comedy rather than tragicomedy at the Opera House Manchester, losing a little depth in order to find more laughs

“Let’s get pissed”

I spotted at least two people dressed up as Beverly at this matinée of Abigail’s Party at Manchester’s Opera House, a sure sign of cult status for any play. But it also means that their particular version of it can be stuck in aspic, making it difficult for any new interpretation to break through one’s own pre-programmed laugh track, to offer up a new reading of an oh-so-familiar text.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone – for me, ‘Demis Roussos’ is up there with ‘a handbag’ in terms of iconic lines – but Mike Leigh’s play has always struck me as a desperately sad one rather than an out and out comedy. Last year’s production at Hornchurch and the Menier’s 2012 production brought those sour notes but interestingly, Sarah Esdaile’s touring production opts for out and out farce. Continue reading “Review: Abigail’s Party, Opera House Manchester”

Review: Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched, Park

“Who threw all the pickles down the stairs?”

They say write about what you know but when your childhood memories of 1950s Derby recall nothing so much as 1970s sitcom humour, I’m not sure that Michael Kirk’s Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched isn’t the exception to the rule. Co-written with Gemma Page and directed by Kirk himself, the show is a self-described “mucky romp through the morals, memories and music of the 1950s” but whilst it has an undeniable comic edge that fitfully breaks through to genuine humour, too often it is laboured and criminally inconsistent.

Bouncing from sex farce to serious drama, domestic violence rubbing shoulders with domestic comedy, the play never settles into a groove and crucially, it lacks credibility once matters start to darken and we’re meant to take things more earnestly. Which kind of flies in the face of much of the acting – Wendi Peters is delightfully battle-axed as matriarch Dorothy-Mavis, who won’t let anything her feckless family does get in the way of her social climbing but there’s little sense of depth to the character, an emotional underpinning that would justify this later shift. Continue reading “Review: Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched, Park”