It’s been over forty years since Mike Leigh’s gauche hostess Beverly slow-danced her way into theatrical history, but what happened to Abigail? The Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Derby Theatre have joined forces to commission Abi, a contemporary response to the classic comedy Abigail’s Party.
Abi is the story of 15-year-old Abisheera (Abi for short), the granddaughter of Abigail. After one of her regular visits to see her grandmother in hospital, Abi decides to throw her one last party, convinced it will get her beloved Nan back on her feet. But as she tries to clear her head and her grandmother’s flat, family secrets begin to surface. Will Abigail’s past threaten Abi’s already fragile present?
This fresh new piece of writing is the latest in Derby Theatre’s RETOLD series and is written by Atiha Sen Gupta (Skins, Holby City), one of Britain’s exciting new writers (following Penelope RETOLD by Caroline Horton, Joan RETOLD written and directed by Lucy Skilbeck and Jinny RETOLD by Jane Wainwright). RETOLD is a series of new one-woman plays from some of the most sensational female voices in contemporary theatre today which aim to crack open the classics and see the story afresh from the perspective of a female character. Abi is directed by Sarah Brigham, Derby Theatre’s Artistic Director.
Abi runs at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch (4 – 22 September) and at Derby Theatre (29 September – 20 October) as a companion piece to their collaborative revival production, Abigail’s Party, which is also co-produced with Wiltshire Creative and international partner Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg.
Abi stars Safiyya Ingar who recently finished filming with the BBC in Stephen Poliakoff’s period drama Summer of Rockets. Her other credits include LAVA (Nottingham Playhouse) and Growth UK Tour (Paines Plough). Sarah Brigham, Artistic Director of Derby Theatre and director of Abi says, ‘I am excited to be producing this exciting new play by Atiha Sen Gupta with the very talented Safiyya Ingar. Atiha is one of the most exciting new playwrights in the country and I know Safiyya will deliver a powerhouse of a performance in this one woman show which explores the heartache of growing up and offers a fresh new perspective to the timeless classic of Abigail’s Party.’
Performing in Abigail’s Party will be Liam Bergin, Amy Downham, Susie Emmett, Melanie Gutteridge and Christopher Staines.
Abigail’s Party is widely considered a classic of 20th-century British drama for its tragi-comedy and acute satire on the class-consciousness and social climbing of 1970s Britain. It was made famous by the BBC’s Play for Today starring Alison Steadman, which was seen by 16 million viewers.
Abigail’s Party opens at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch from 30 August – 22 September and then tours to Derby Theatre (26 September – 20 October), Salisbury Playhouse (30 October – 17 November) and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg (27 – 29 November).