A REVIVAL of Mike Leigh’s cult classic Abigail’s Party is heading to the Salisbury Playhouse stage.

Playing the socially awkward, aspirational hostess Beverly is Melanie Gutteridge who is best known for her roles as PC Emma Keane in The Bill and Amy in Not Going Out.

She has also starred in the British-American horror film The Watcher in the Woods and on stage in Roaring Trade at the Park Theatre.

Abigail’s Party was made famous by the BBC’s Play for Today starring Alison Steadman, which was seen by 16 million viewers.

Melanie says: “Abigail’s Party is one of Mike Leigh’s most seminal works. Most people know it from the 70s TV broadcast which due to a number of different circumstances ended up with huge viewing figures.

“It has really made its way into everybody’s consciousness.”

Melanie says the show will capture the essence of this but there is more to the play which audiences will be able to discover in this production.

“The ebbs and flows and emotional undertones of the play are really quite potent. It is an unexpected roller coaster ride,” she explains.

“It is incredibly funny but there is also a real punch to it.”

Melanie says she has really enjoyed taking on the role of Beverly. As she explains: “People generally think of her as monstrous and selfish, and she is those things, but she is also incredibly vulnerable, angry and lonely, and she behaves terribly appallingly.

“It is very clear throughout the passage of the play why and what has brought her to that point”

“It is really cathartic because basically you spend your whole life not saying what you think because you might upset somebody and she just comes right out with it and really enjoys the effect that it has,” she admits.

“Up until now I’ve mainly played quite repressed, restless and secretive or cold characters and it can be really tiring throughout a long process playing those characters. You feel like you have got loads of pent up stuff you want to get rid of but not with Beverly. At the end of every show I come out saying ‘ah that’s better’.”

Melanie will be joined on stage by Liam Bergin (Danny Mitchell in EastEnders), Amy Downham (Jen Gilmore in Hollyoaks), Susie Emmett (who performed opposite Richard E Grant in the film The Man Who Married Himself) and Christopher Staines (Hamlet, National Theatre) as Laurence.

This production is co-produced by Wiltshire Creative, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Derby Theatre and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg.

It is directed by the Queen’s Theatre’s artistic director Douglas Rintoul (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Rope, Made in Dagenham).

Tickets or more information are available by calling the Salisbury Playhouse box office on 01722 320333 or by visiting wiltshirecreative.co.uk