Sunday, 11 May 2014

'Relative Values' Harold Pinter Theatre ****

The West End has two Noel Coward plays running at the same time with 'Blithe Spirit' playing at the Gielgud theatre and 'Relative Values' entertaining audiences at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Both productions are on par with one another. 'Relative Values' written in 1951 conveys the position of the social classes and the secrets of family. As with most Coward plays, the setting is in rural Kent, where we are introduced to Crestwell a butler and Mrs Dora Moxton "Moxie" a maid for Felicity, Countess of Marshwood are constantly arguing with each other and are presently awaiting the arrival of Nigel, Earl of Marshwood and his actress fiancée Miranda Frayle. However, there's a huge sting in the tail, Miranda is in fact Moxie's youngest sister. To solve the issue, Felicity and her nephew, the Honorable Peter Ingletton conjure up a plan and promote Moxie to companion/secretary, which upgrades her position in the social ladder. The narrative is incredibly fluid throughout and the dialogue is vastly hilarious, certainly what you expect from a Noel Coward script. It was pleasant to see immense respect that Felicity has with Dora Moxton and her lifelong devotion to her. The production reminds me of the successful ITV show 'Downton Abbey' and the juxtaposition between the upper and working classes both seem to portay the admiration of the superb work that maids and butlers contribute to their well-being. I must admit that Noel Coward never seems to disappoint in both emotional and comic moments. His work still engages audiences 50 - 60 years on and 'Relative Values' engrosses me throughout the entire performance. The performances but the whole company was wonderful and very funny. Rory Bremner's theatrical début was amazing as Crestwell, the butler, and of course he was rib-tickling especially in his lines. Caroline Quentin is outstanding as Mrs Dora Moxton and the transformation from the maid to a respectful woman of society was a personal highlight. Patricia Hodge is brilliant as Felicity, Countess of Marshwood. I particularly liked the scenes between her and Quentin as it feels like they should be secret sisters. Leigh Zimmerman was sublime as Moxie's younger sister Miranda and her comic timing was wonderful to see. The direction by the legendary Trevor Nunn was wonderful as he's been able to present a revival of Coward's to a superb standard of finish, as well as it felt that the audience reacted to it positively due to the eruption of laughing during the proceedings. Stephen Brimson- Lewis's design is beautiful as the parlour has been styled in a semicircle format and it's very captivating as both scenic art and scenic construction was phenomenal. I have to say that 'Relative Values' was an enjoyable experience and one you should purchase tickets for.

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