ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
Rory Bremner, best known as an impressionist, makes full use of the role as Crestwell, the butler, an avowed socialist with great intelligence and wit. It is the butler who has many of the best lines.
Caroline Quentin plays Moxie, the countess's ladies maid who starts behaving peculiarly when she learns that Nigel, the Earl of Marshwood (Sam Hoare) is engaged to Miranda Frayle (Leigh Zimmerman). Now life for Felicity is unthinkable without her ladies maid of two decades and when Moxie confesses that Miranda is her (we were all thinking illegitimate and adopted child) sister, the social gap would apparently be unthinkable in the same household. Hence a temporary solution of sorts, Moxie is to be quickly given a makeover and elevated to the rank of companion/secretary to the Countess.
When Miranda arrives she does not recognise her sister and her embroidered tales of her as a victim of her "drunkard" feckless sister are highly amusing to all in the know. Some watch with raised eyebrows, while others egg Miranda on into more lies and slander. Felicity's nephew Peter (Stephen Pacey) camps up the play with a character not as written by Coward.
There are nice touches: the girl guides hiding in the bushes in the hope of an autograph from the film star, the planning of the local fete in the grounds by Lady Marshwood with all the eccentricity of the English at play.
Of the performances, Patricia Hodge is in her element as the countess, unafraid to state the outrageous. Amanda Boxer and Timothy Knightley play two neighbours, Lady Cynthia and Admiral Sir John Hayling, who have to be quickly brought into the library in order to tell them of Moxie's rise in pretend status. Sam Hoare's son, Nigel, whose marital adventures with inappropriate women we hear about before he makes an entrance, is suitably ineffectual. Rory Bremner's timing is absolutely superb and he is a real find as a serious actor with comic edges. I liked too Ben Mansfield as Hollywood heart throb Don Lucas who arrives as the answer to everyone's prayers, including the autograph hunters!
Relative Values is a pleasing gentle comedy, less known than Private Lives and Blithe Spirit for the reason that its plot is not as ingenious from the man called The Master. With the fascination of many for Downton Abbey, it would appear that the English upper classes are still a theatrical draw.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.