Abi review at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch – ‘a vivid performance’
Commissioned as a companion piece to Mike Leigh’s acerbic drama Abigail’s Party – a remount of which runs alongside this production at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch – Abi is a smart, sensitive, but somewhat directionless monologue from writer Atiha Sen Gupta.
The contemporary story follows 15-year-old Abisheera, granddaughter of the eponymous Abigail. Preparing to host a gathering of her own, she animatedly discusses the modern pitfalls of Instagram, increasing sexualisation, and dubious online relationships.
The script is believable and intelligent, filled with well observed humour and callbacks to Leigh’s text. Gupta slowly drip feeds the audience information on the intergenerational conflicts within Abi’s family, touching obliquely on the prevalent racism and misogyny of the 1970s but never probing these themes as deeply as you might hope.
Safiyya Ingar gives a superb performance as Abi, rattling out her lines in a breathless rush, fully embodying the characters she mentions in passing before snapping back to her own, energetic persona. Full of life and optimism, she is likeable in a way Leigh’s characters never were. Director Sarah Brigham keeps her bouncing energetically around the space, infusing the largely uneventful play with energy – although the occasional dance breaks which slip in from time to time feel awkward and entirely arbitrary.
Lee Newby’s detailed set, shared between the two productions, has been stripped here, as Abigail’s possessions are packed away into boxes. As life carries on and history threatens to repeat itself, little remains beyond the garish wallpaper and a well-stocked drinks trolley.