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Relative Values – Theatre Royal Bath

Writer: Noel Coward

Director: Trevor Nunn

Reviewer: Richard Loftus

[rating:3]

relativevalues_TheatreRoyal_BathThe question of class, in the opening dialogue of Noel Coward’s Relative Values, is reminiscent of headlines in 2010 regarding Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton. Trevor Nunn’s production begins its run at Bath’s Theatre Royal a month before the Duke and Duchess’ first child is due – meanwhile in 1951, the newsreel which is used as a brief interlude between scenes, remarks how in an ever-changing world the only thing that stays the same are the Royals!

Relative Values is a comical clash of the classes, as Young Earl Nigel (Sam Hoare) announces he will marry a Hollywood actress (Katherine Kingsley). But when it comes to light that the film-star is also the sister of the Earl’s mother’s maid (Caroline Quentin), a humorous mousetrap is set.

The play takes time to set the scene with explanations of who’s who and what’s what. It isn’t until Kingsley’s entrance as leading lady Miranda Frayle in Act 2, Scene 1, that the audience can begin to revel in the humour of pretension, with Alice, the housemaid (Caroline Quentin), trying desperately to portray herself as an aristocrat.

Felicty, Countess of Marshwood, is played by the brilliant Patricia Hodge who delivers the sharp wit of Noel Coward with exquisite precision. Along with Steven Pacey as her on-stage nephew, The Honourable Peter Ingleton, the pair provide a class-act. Watching their interaction and reactions, on Stephen Brimson Lewis’ divine and decadent set, are the most enjoyable moments of Trevor Nunn’s production.

After the interval, in Act 2, Scene 2, the feud between Quentin and Kingsley comes to a head far too quickly and thus the remaining scenes become unsurprising, aside from the splintering of Coward’s trademark witticisms. When the Hollywood star Don Lucas (Ben Mansfield) arrives to rescue Miranda, things are quickly and predictably returned to their original state and one is left questioning whether anything ever does change – whether it be the Royals, the class-system or society.

Photo: Catherine Ashmore

Runs until Saturday 29 June.

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One comment

  1. I loved this play! I have always been sceptical about ‘comedy’ plays, thinking that they would be too contrived, but I was certainly proven wrong. Patricia Hodge is such a legend – I love her in ‘Miranda’ and her character in the play is very similar to Miranda’s mother – in fact the whole play was like an aristocratic version of Miranda, where one thing leads to another to create an increasingly farcical and highly amusing situation! Caroline Quentin and Rory Bremner were superb too and made the characters their own. You could easily be forgiven for thinking that Rory Bremner had always been an actor, a very good debut indeed.