The original play starred Alison Steadman as Beverly, and Tim Stern as her husband Laurence. They are holding a dinner party for their new neighbours Angela (Janine Duvitski), and her husband Tony (John Salthouse). They also invite Susan (Harriet Reynolds), another neighbour. Abigail herself is never seen - she is Susan's 15 year-old daughter who is holding her first teenage party next door.
The plot is very simple, revolving around the one-upmanship of the two couples, and the tension of Beverly and Laurence's barely functional marriage. As the alcohol takes effect, Beverly becomes increasingly attracted to Tony, as Laurence sits impotently by. After a tirade about art, he collapses after choking on something. Within this simple framework, all of the obsessions, prejudices and petty competitiveness of the protagonists is ruthlessly exposed.
Channel Four's reviewer said: "Abigail's Party still ranks as the most painful hundred minutes in British comedy-drama."