Reviewing a production directed by a person whom you personally and professionally adore, is not the easiest thing. On one side you try not to be biased and on another you fear being brutally honest. With miscellaneous feelings and very high expectations, I visited Hull Truck Theatre last Tuesday, to see Abigail’s Party by Amanda Huxtable, the Change Maker, who for the last 2 years has been fighting for inclusion and diversity in the arts (or as I believe, in life).
For the final chapter of the Change Maker Programme, Huxtable chose to present the classic play written by Mike Leigh in 1977, a tragicomedy which illustrates a grotesque portrait of a suburban, new middle class in Britain. Despite its 40 years life on stage, this play is still relevant and timeless, thanks to its universality and the fact that human nature doesn’t seem to change. Leigh through erratic and superficial dialogues, uncomfortable pauses and cringy vaunts of Mrs and Mr Moss, not only exposes materialism, idiocy and perfidy of the middle class, but also simultaneously allows audience to laugh, judge and reflect upon their own behaviour.
Huxtable’s interpretation adds even more complexity to the original play. The director not only unveils class inequalities and the absurdity of marriage of convenience, but she creates a new layer to Leigh’s play. Making Tony and Angela (Daniel Ward and Ani Nelson) a black couple who are newly moved in into the neighbourhood, raises dialogues about racial equality then and now. Laurence’s (Duncan MacInnes) statements about the class of people living in their area was nonchalantly, yet cruelly aimed at his guests. Elusive, but sharp comments that only slip every so often, create the real atmosphere in Moss’ residency and true face of its hosts.
I have to say from the very first moment to the last scene, everything was well timed and I would say, choreographed. Beverly’s (Katharine Bennett-Fox) mannerism, perfectly changing countenance and her annoying voice… perfectly crafted from the start to finish.
I might have been apprehensive at first, not fully convinced to Huxtable’s choice, as I am not the biggest fan of Leigh’s comedy of awkwardness. I might have even expected something bolder, more courageous. However, I must admit, Amanda nailed it, and she did it in style.