Inside the Greenroom: A Closer Look at Abigail’s Party

“British theatre hadn’t quite seen a play like this before.”

Mike Leigh’s classic black comedy, Abigail’s Party, first premiered in 1977. London Classic Theatre are bringing it back to British theatres, with characters and uncomfortable situations that feel as relevant today as they did almost 50 years ago.

Go behind the scenes with the cast, and director, Michael Cabot, as they spill more about the play in this rehearsals video and scroll down to read an interview with Rebecca Birch on playing the iconic role of Beverly, which Alison Steadman famously brought to life in the 1977 Play for Today broadcast.

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Rebecca Birch on the legacy of Abigail’s Party, playing Beverly, and working with Michael Cabot

Photo of Rebecca Birch , who plays Beverly in Abigail's Party, in rehearsals, sat on a sofa with a glass in her hand.
Photo by Rosalind Furlong

For those who don’t know, could you tell us a bit about the plot of Abigail’s Party?
Abigail’s Party is a tragi-comedy focusing on class, relationships, gender roles and ‘doing the done thing’. The play takes place over one evening at Beverly and Laurence’s house. They’ve invited some neighbours round for drinks and nibbles and a cringe-inducing clash of subjects including politics, music and snack preference ensues. Without giving too much away, the night doesn’t end how the audience (or the characters) might think.

What drew you to playing Beverly?
I really, really laughed when I read the script. It’s obviously an iconic role to play and I just love her complexity and how she hides her vulnerability under nice dresses and the latest sofa. I’m so excited to be playing her.

What is it about Abigail’s Party that has encouraged such a dedicated cult following?
I think British theatre hadn’t quite seen a play like this before. The fact that the original cast improvised for ten weeks to find these people, these gorgeously real yet ridiculous characters, is a testament to what became a very relatable and uncomfortable-at-times play. I think the reason it still has its following is because it stands the test of time and remains relevant. People think how they think, and they do what they do. And isn’t that fascinating?

You’ve worked with director Michael Cabot before. What are you looking forward to most about the rehearsal process with London Classic Theatre?
LCT has a wonderful rehearsal room. The schedule is meticulously planned, and you really feel like you’re in safe hands on tour. Michael Cabot is a real actor’s director. He allows you the space in the room to find the character for yourself and to find the play as a group. He doesn’t smother your process or over-note you and that helps us as actors to really trust ourselves and what we’re making.

Photo of Abigail's Party director Michael Cabot in rehearsals, gesturing with his hands while speaking.
Photo by Rosalind Furlong
Abigail's Party production photo - Beverly (Rebecca Birch) wearing a glamorous red dress, stood in front of a brown leather sofa and behind a wooden coffee table, waving her arms and singing. Background: Inside a luxuriously decorated living room. A long wooden cabinet with paintings, sculptures and alcohol spirit bottles on it.
Photo by Sheila Burnett

What do you want the audience to get out of your performance?
I would like to try and show the less monstrous side to Beverly. Whilst she’s biting and bossy, not afraid of confrontation and incredibly insistent, I believe she’s deeply unhappy and hiding that even from herself. I would like the audience to see her side. And laugh. I hope they laugh.

Why should someone come and see Abigail’s Party?
I would love people to come and sit in our living room with us. Come on this journey on this one night and let us entertain you, make you laugh but also make you think. Do you hold others to account based on their class? Do you love freely and unapologetically? Do you like olives? Escape from your every day by coming into ours.

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