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Abigail’s Party (BBC-1 1977, Alison Steadman, Tim Stern)

Abigail's Party

Abigail, the eponymous entertainer of this exalted Play For Today, was never actually seen. She was in the house next door, throwing a party for her teenage friends. It might, therefore, have been more appropriate to call the drama ‘Beverly’s Party’, for that is where the action took place.

To coincide with the teenage bash, neurotic neighbour Beverly had organized her own little gathering for the grown-ups. Along with Abigail’s anxious mother, Sue, local residents Angela and Tony were invited, and making up the select group was Beverly’s stressed-out husband, Laurence. As the evening dragged by, the drink flowed freely, the grating Beverly forced everyone to endure the ‘fantastic’ Demis Roussos on the stereo, and marital tensions reached fever pitch as she obliviously sailed through a series social blunders.

Abigail’s Party was the play that confirmed the talents of writer/director Mike Leigh and his then wife, actress Alison Steadman, who had previously collaborated on an earlier Play for Today, Nuts in May (1976).

It had first been performed on stage at the Hampstead Theatre and some of the dialogue, even in the televised version, was improvised. The play has become a cult and, in 1997, BBC 2 presented an Abigail’s Party night to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its first transmission.

production details
UK / BBC-1 / 1×100 minute episode / Broadcast 1 November 1977

Creator & Director: Mike Leigh / Producer: Margaret Matheson

Series: Play For Today Season 8 Episode 3

cast
ALISON STEADMAN as Beverly
TIM STERN as Laurence
JOHN SALTHOUSE as Tony
JANINE DUVITSKI as Angela
HARRIET REYNOLDS as Sue