Noises Off, Lindsay Posner now directs a darker, more acidic comedy, but with similarly strong results.
Posner has assembled a strong cast: Jill Halfpenny and Andy Nyman are the bickering, aspirational Bev and Laurence, Halfpenny resisting the temptation to try and copy Alison Steadman's original performance, which I've seen backfire in revivals of this play before. On a sunny Saturday evening they're having new neighbours round for drinks - nurse Angela (Natalie Casey) and her monosyllabic husband Tony (Joe Absolom,) plus divorced Sue (Susannah Harker) from next door: Sue's 15-year-old daughter Abigail is having a party, and her mother's mainly here to stay out of her way. I mentioned the 1970s details partly because although they do get a few laughs, the cheese-and-pineapple on sticks and the Demis Roussos fixation aren't what Abigail's Party is all about. Posner knows this and the cast looks at the material as fresh, the real familiarity is with the characters and their relationships, not the nostalgia effect.
Abigail's Party by Mike Leigh is booking until the 21st of April at the Menier Chocolate Factory (returns only, although there seem to be attempts being made to extend or transfer) and from the 23rd to the 28th of April at the Theatre Royal, Bath.
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes including interval.