Set in the 1950s, Relative Values shows us that when the glittering world of Hollywood and stiff English aristocracy collide, hilarity ensues.
So when the young Earl of the Marshwood House announced that he was to marry a movie star, it throws the entire household into panic. And that was even before they found out that the starlet's sister was none other than the family help.
Patricia Hodge, Caroline Quentin, and Rory Bremner stars in this revival of a Noel Coward classic.
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard: At times I struggled to care about these silly people, but it’s impossible not to be amused by Hodge’s silkily imperious tone as she tries to ensure the upper classes remain unsullied by such an arriviste.
Quentin excels in a silent comedy of manners and embarrassment and Bremner has fun with an accent that slides up and down the social scale in the course of a single sentence. So, relatively enjoyable.
Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times: The production suffers too from the mixed blessing that is Trevor Nunn’s direction. Nunn’s characteristic skill is in making action seem natural, but that can be inimical to the pace needed for Coward; add in historical-footnote newsreel sequences briefing us on 1951, gratuitous dance outbreaks and other business and the result is that the inadequacies of the play seem exaggerated.
Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk: If we’re uncomfortable watching Coward’s play, that doesn’t necessarily make it flawed – in fact, quite the contrary. Relative Values tackles a topic no one wants to talk about in Call Me Dave’s classless society. Forget sex, religion and politics, this is the real dirt – our own unacknowledged but not uncontested 38th parallel. Nunn’s production lets the play speak for itself, infelicities and all, and the result is as unsettling as it is funny.
Tim Walker, The Telegraph: This study of a man marrying outside his class is, on the surface, a frothy comedy. Tragedy and a sense of despair at the human condition are, however, to be found in the undercurrents. Nunn and his players – with one notable exception – have an exquisite skill at communicating human frailty.
Ben Dowell, The Stage: Nunn deftly guides his ensemble through this conventionally amusing tale of an aristocratic English family beset by the horrific possibility that Sam Hoare’s shallow heir Nigel has returned to the stately home set on marrying Leigh Zimmerman’s glamorous Hollywood film star.