Bath's Theatre Royal is a beautiful theatre with an intimate feel and it makes the perfect setting for a play like Noël Coward's popular comedy Relative Values. I went along to the press viewing tonight and greatly enjoyed this version directed by Trevor Nunn, and starring Patricia Hodge, Caroline Quentin and Rory Bremner.
Set in the living room of a quintessentially-English aristocratic home of the early 50s, the play humorously explores snobbery (and the inverted forms it takes), class barriers, the post-war struggle between modernist and conservative thought, and the inevitable clash between the traditional English upper-classes and new Hollywood glamour – all with amusing insight and inevitable consequences. I suppose the plot has a reactionary vein to it, but, for me, Coward doesn't strike the heart of these issues with sharp precision; rather with a robust light-heartedness.
It is a delightfully enjoyable production, with the brilliant cast giving relentlessly engaging performances. Although a few lines went awry, and there was somehow a sense of the 'unfinished' when it ended, it was a well-executed piece. I greatly enjoyed the flamboyancy of the humour, thought the costumes were really smart and really liked the regency-style set. I predict that, in line with my brief-and-untrained overview (theatre isn't my area of expertise), this one is going to get some good reviews from those in the know. A highly enjoyable evening. And, thanks to a lovely colleague of mine, it was fun to be part of the journalist pack for the evening – I enjoyed a nice glass of elegant white in the press room during the interval.
|Theatre Royal, Bath | Photo: theatreroyal.org.uk|
|Patricia Hodge and Ben Mansfield in Relative Values | Photo: Catherine Ashmore|
Relative Values runs until 29th June.