Having seen Private Lives at the Gielgud last year, hopes were relatively high for Relative Values – another Noël Coward farcical play, and fortunately I was not disappointed. At just under three hours the time flew by as the play explored the clash of English aristocracy with Hollywood celebrities as the Earl of Marshwood (Sam Hoare) returns with his fiancé, Hollywood starlet Miranda Frayle (Leigh Zimmerman) in tow.
The play is in three acts, with all bar the final act featuring two scenes. Whilst Act One is slow in setting up the farce that is to follow, this is more than easy to forgive given the pure hilarity that follows as both Miranda’s family and her ex-lover – Don Lucas (Ben Mansfield) make an appearance and the plot laughs itself along to its conclusion.
The performance is littered with famous names, featuring Caroline Quentin (Men Behaving Badly, Jonathan Creek etc) as Moxie, Rory Bremner as Crestwell the Butler and most notably Patricia Hodge who holds the play together with a commanding performance as the Earl’s Mother, Felicity, the Countess of Marshwood for whom praise could not be high enough. Given Felicity appears on stage in a central role almost the whole time, most pivotally in Act Three it is Hodge’s performance that holds Relative Values together with typical English upper class tones.
This is not in anyway to undermine the superb performances put in by the rest of the ensemble who all share in the limelight. Special mentions have to be given to the performances from Zimmerman (Miranda), Quentin (Moxie) and Stephen Pacey (Felicity’s amusing nephew Peter) though one feels that Bremner is slightly underused in his role as Crestwell.
All in all Relative Values is a thoroughly enjoyable farce providing many amusing moments throughout as the clash of class and culture is made more than apparent resulting in an extremely enjoyable evening at the theatre.
Nutleyone rating: 8/10
Relative Values is on at the Harold Pinter Theatre until June 21st with tickets available from ATG Tickets