IN 1977 the BBC broadcast Abigail’s Party in its 'Play for Today' slot and it, and Alison Steadman’s performance as the voracious Beverly, were a sensation.

Some 40 years later this ground-breaking comedy has been revived and it is as fresh as ever.

The set is Beverly and her husband Laurence’s front room.

We are in the 70s where cheese plants and fibre optic decorations reign supreme.

Beverly has invited new neighbours Ange and Tone round for drinks and they are joined by a nervous Sue whose 15-year-old daughter Abigail is holding a party in Sue’s house.

The noise from the teenage party provides a worrying background for Sue trapped in a ghastly evening for her.

It is soon clear that Beverly is out to impress the neighbours and she is bored with the hapless Laurence.

Ange and Tone also seem ill-matched.

He is monosyllabic and bad tempered. She is chatty and indiscreet.

As the night wears on and the characters imbibe more and more Bacardi and coke ('with ice and lemon' as Beverly insists) the inhibitions fall away and the fault lines in the two marriages are exposed with hilarious results.

Beverly dominates, outrageously flirting with Tone and making sure that she is in control.

In the second act the action increases in pace and the humour matches it with events leading to a climax revealing Beverly’s character at its worst.

Beverly is excellently played by Jodie Prenger who has chosen to replicate Alison Steadman’s unique vocal style and mannerisms in playing Beverly and does so impeccably.

Soap actress Vicky Binns also stands out as the naïve Ange.

Her toe-curlingly awkward dance with Laurence is one of the funniest moments of the evening.

Although the play is firmly rooted in the 70s, the comedy springs from the rich mix of characters thrown together and that still resonates in the present day where we perhaps all know someone who is a bit like the awful Beverley and the down trodden Laurence.

Abigail’s Party at Liverpool Playhouse

Paul Bargery