Review: Abi

4 star rating
An intelligently-written, witty and highly relevant play (written in response to Abigail's Party) with an emotionally vivid and striking central characterisation from Safiyya Ingar.
Abi at Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

Image: Queen's Theatre Hornchurch



Closes here: Saturday 22 September 2018

Author:
Atiha Sen Gupta

Director:
Sarah Brigham

Cast:

Safiyya Ingar - Abisheera

Synopsis


A contemporary response to Abigail's Party by Atiha Sen Gupta.


From an original idea by Sarah Brigham.


After one of her regular visits to see grandmother Abigail in hospital, 15 year old Abisheera ('Abi' for short) decides to throw her one last party, convinced it will get her beloved Nan back on her feet.


Struggling to face the imminent reality of life without the only family member she is close to, Abi throws her all into planning Abigail's final party.


But as Abi 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, commissioned by Derby Theatre and Queen's Theatre Hornchurch as part of the RETOLD series, is by one of Britain's most exciting new writers.


RETOLD, is a series of new one-woman plays from some of the most sensational female voices in contemporary theatre today. RETOLD's aim is to crack open classic tales and see the story afresh from the perspective of a female character.


Trailer



ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 6 September 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

Abi is based on an interesting idea by director, Sarah Brigham, to create a contemporary response to Mike Leigh's hugely well-known play, Abigail's Party.


That might have been, on its own, a significant challenge for writer Atiha Sen Gupta.


But that dramatic test has an additional layer of significance since this new work is currently playing alongside its immensely famous counterpart.


Now if you've not seen Mike Leigh's seminal work, then I'd recommend that you see Abigail's Party first before watching Abi because this new and absorbing piece has its roots firmly set in some of the characters and events in Mr Leigh's still excruciatingly funny work.


That doesn't mean that Abi can't stand alone as a play - it can and does - but I think most people will find some of the connections clearer and more revelatory having digested the 'Party' first.

Safiyya Ingar as Abi at Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

Safiyya Ingar as Abi - photo by Mark Sepple


Atiha Sen Gupta sets her one-person play slap bang in the present day, introducing us to a bubbly teenager, called Abisheera (Abi for short) who is almost physically bound to her mobile phone and has a proclivity to speak in acronyms (like AF - which I'll leave you to work out).


Abi is 15, the same age as the rebellious, pink-haired Abigail from Abigail's party.


Moreover, Abi is Abigail's granddaughter, and we meet Abi in her nan's house as she is about to hold a party of her own, whilst her grandmother is in hospital having been diagnosed with dementia.


That family relationship provides a strong connection between the two plays as do some revelations suggested by Abi's discovery of some of her Nan's old photos.


But Abi is not merely a play bent on filling in gaps left by its predecessor, even if we do learn more about some elements of the plot of Abigail's Party which the original glossed over.


Atiha Sen Gupta cleverly weaves together a story which is essentially about a teenager adjusting to the complexities of the adult world.


Abisheera is a pretty typical 15 year-old who provides us with numerous and humorous philosophical musings on all manner of topics including her relationship with her 'rents (parents), the essential ingredients of planning and effecting a successful party and, inveitably, boys and sex.


Abi plays on Lee Newby's excellent set for the current production of Abigail's Party, with the free-standing bar still evident, but with some packing boxes suggesting that someone is moving out, and a bright red sofa replacing Beverly and Laurence's 70's leather suite.


The sizeable set presents no impediment to Safiyya Ingar's endearing and wholly engaging performance - in fact it provides ample space to indicate a kind of teenage restlessness, especially in her energetic dancing at the start of the play.


I'm sure there are some people who would love to see a sequel, or even a prequel to Abigail's Party, but Abi isn't either of those, nor is it intended to be.


There are, however, tantalising suggestions about the original play which devoted fans of the 'Party' will readily appreciate.


And, like it's counterpart, Abi is punctuated with a moving denouement, proving - if any further evidence is required - that the teenage years are hardly a bed of roses and often a painful learning experience.


Overall, Abi is an intelligently-written, witty and highly relevant play with an emotionally vivid and striking central characterisation from Safiyya Ingar.



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