Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Review: Relative Values at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Relative Values 
Harold Pinter Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 15th April 2014

Everything is going swimmingly inside Marshwood House in early July 1951 until it is revealed that the Hollywood film actress Earl plans to marry is the long-lost sister of his mother's favourite maid. Of course things begin to go downhill.

Relative Values is witty and ridiculous. Whilst it isn't my favourite Noel Coward play, the stellar cast bring this production to life giving tremendous performances. Patricia Hodge is the driving force behind the piece. Her portrayal of Earl's mother, Felicity, another of Coward's feisty female roles, is masterful. Hodge's delivery is utterly hysterical but she also manages to perform with heart. 

Caroline Quentin plays Felicity's maid Moxie who wants to flee from Marshwood House when she finds out her sister (who she hasn't seen for twenty years) is soon to arrive. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and one of the play's finest moments comes after Moxie's radical makeover gives her the courage to (eventually) stand up to her lying sister, Miranda. Quentin once again reminds us why she is known as one of Britain's most talented comedic actresses.

The final two stand out performances come from Leigh Zimmerman as Miranda and Ben Mansfield as Miranda's old flame, Don. It's fantastic to see Zimmerman shine in a completely different role, she always performs with a twinkle in her eye. Mansfield is very funny as the Hollywood actor who finds himself surrounded by eavesdropping maids and autograph hunting girl guides.

Trevor Nunn's production is neatly staged, with short video clips being shown between scenes to get your brain geared into 1951 mode. Although there are better Coward plays (including Blithe Spirit which is currently running at the Gielgud Theatre), Relative Values is good fun and provides an evening of light-hearted escapism. If anything, it's worth buying a ticket just to see Patricia Hodge's monumental performance; she is a joy to watch on stage.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Relative Values runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre until Saturday 21st June 2014.
Click here to book tickets (top price seats reduced to £41 at selected performances).

Photo Credit: Catherine Ashmore

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