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Pip scores a gig to ‘Abigail’s Party’

08 Mar 2018

Pip scores a gig to ‘Abigail’s Party’ Image

By Sean Car

Director Stephen Nicolazzo will make his Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) main stage debut this month when his lavish revival of British playwright Mike Leigh’s cult-classic ‘Abigail’s Party’ opens on March 22. To find out more about this contemporary take on 70s British suburbia, ‘Southbank Local News’ caught up with the play’s starring actress Pip Edwards over lunch at the local Downstairs Bistro & Lounge on Sturt St.

In the midst of a busy rehearsal period and just a few weeks out from the play’s opening, Pip kindly swung across the street from MTC’s headquarters to Downstairs to bring us up to speed with how the show was shaping up.

Working alongside a talented cast under the direction of her long time friend and creative counterpart Stephen Nicolazzo, she said she was excited to be a part of Stephen’s bold new interpretation of a Mike Leigh classic.

“We’re at week three of rehearsal so it’s at the stage of ‘what’s this going to be like right now?’ but we’re getting there,” she said. “We did one run the whole way through and now we’re now going through and detailing and fine tuning it.”

“We’re making something that’s quite new and contemporary out of a 1970s piece and so I think Stephen is well and truly an artist and he’s making something new.”

“He’s not rehashing a 70s sitcom because I guess in some ways there’s something nice about disco and cheesy pineapple canapés but he’s focused on what’s going to speak now so it’s quite in your face!”

Boasting an impressive career in theatre, film and television, some of Pip’s most notable performances have included parts in shows such as Home & Away, Anzac Girls, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Wonderland.

Making her return to the MTC main stage following her debut in Ghosts in 2014, she stars in the role of Beverley in Mike Leigh’s kitsch classic, which opens at Southbank Theatre, The Sumner on Thursday, March 22.

Abigail’s Party takes the audience to the suburban drinks party from hell! The play is set during a period of rapid transition in 1970s England pre-Margaret Thatcher and wedged between the disco era and the punk revolution.

Pip said her own character was considered to be quite selfish and even a tad monstrous! However, beneath it all, she said Beverley was a real human managing life as a woman in the 1970s.

“If you think about the 1970s she hasn’t come from a huge amount of money. If you were to look at her she’d be what you’d call a narcissist but from the inside there’s no reason for me to play that as an actor,” she said.

“It’s really important for me to also feel what is the truth that we’re bringing out and what I see is a woman. She’s got this idea that you must get married and a lot of her life she’s made herself look as gorgeous as she can.”

The desperate-to-impress Beverley and her staid real estate agent husband Laurence host the party. The guests are their neighbours – eager-to-please nurse Angela and her bully-boy husband Tony and divorcee Susan, who is steering clear of her daughter Abigail’s own party down the road.

Over cheese and pineapple sticks, Demis Roussos records and copious amounts of alcohol, audiences will witness one disastrous evening of social awkwardness, outrageous flirting, cringe-worthy one-upmanship and hilarious put-downs!

The classic tale remains a wonderfully sharp portrait of middle class aspirations 40 years on from its original staging. Mike Leigh’s ability to extract warmth, humour and humanness out of the darkest of situations was a style that Pip said resonated heavily with her and Stephens’ own creative approaches.

“Mike Leigh has got a particular style,” Pip said. “He is known for working with his actors in a very unique way of getting them to pick a person in real life, study them and then put them in situations and sees what comes out of it.”

“Stephen and I both love theatre that is camp, vibrant, fun and kitsch but at the same time we both have a heart and a real interest in humanness and human relationships and we’re both very caring.”

“As humans we’re both like that as well. We’ll be silly and bold and vicious and sometimes absolutely ridiculous and rude but then it comes from a place of loving people.”

Pip features in a stunning cast that includes Zoe Boesen (The Moors), Daniel Frederikson (Matilda: The Musical), Benjamin Rigby (Alien: Covenant) and Katherine Tonkin (Three Little Birds). The play runs until April 21.

For more information and to book tickets visit mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/season-2018/abigails-party

Downstairs Bistro & Lounge at 215-217 Sturt St also offers a delicious pre-theatre offering for locals just a five-minute walk from the Southbank Theatre.

For $45 per person, Downstairs offers a two-course dinner menu, which includes bread, dips and a cocktail on arrival, as well as a choice of main that comes with a matching wine or beer.

To view the menu visit mtc.com.au/your-visit/dining or to make a booking or an enquiry visit downstairs.net.au

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