★★★ | Relative Values, Harold Pinter Theatre, London

In 1951 at Marchwood House in East Kent, Felicity the Countess (Patricia Hodge) is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her son with his new fiancée.

More distressed by the news of his impending marriage is her loyal maid, Moxie (Caroline Quentin). Realising that the soon to be new Countess of Marchwood is not just the glittering Hollywood star she portrays herself as, but her long lost and bitterly resented sister from Sidcup, Moxie decides she has to pack her cases and leave. Felicity can’t bear to lose Moxie and along with her decidedly camp nephew and butler Crestwell (Rory Bremner), hatches a plot to dress Moxie up and palm her off as a family friend.

Trevor Nunn’s revival of Noel Coward’s Relative Values contains some great performances, a beautiful set and great staging, yet somehow fails to fully deliver. In spite of Hodge, Bremner and Quentin showing impeccable timing and great comedic talent, the play feels rusty and out of touch and apart from the occasional glimpse of Coward’s usual waspish humour, felt humdrum and like a weak farce with a nonsensical plot. When the humour shines through it works well and there are some brief moments of high camp humour.

Mostly, however, the play feels decidedly antiquated and hasn’t stood the test of time well. Coward’s glittering set pieces of Hay Fever, Private Lives and The Vortex aren’t reflected well here with the play lacking the rapidly paced repartee and razor sharp wit that Coward is well known for. Coward’s output was prolific so it’s to be expected that there is likely to be a weak link or two in his catalogue of plays and this lacklustre farce has to be a low point.

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It’s definitely a privilege to see two great actresses, like Quentin and Hodge, with such talent for comedy together on one stage. It’s just a shame that the piece doesn’t consistently offer them the material they need to work with.

Relative values runs at the Pinter Theatre until 21st of June 2014

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Buy tickets here: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/relative-values/harold-pinter-theatre/

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He's usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.