Relative Values

Noël Coward
Salisbury Playhouse
(2005)

Relative Values publicity image

Brylcream glistens again at Salisbury Playhouse, and guests still dress for dinner, as Lucy Pitman-Wallace's new production of Noël Coward's Relative Values captures all the sophistication of the master back on top form.

The biting wit of the 20s and 30s has mellowed. This is post war, Festival of Britain - Denis Compton is at the crease - and the Angry Young Men are breathing impatiently down our necks. Time for one more burst of style, however, and a strong Playhouse company has the measure of it.

Led by a galleon of a Countess in the splendid Maggie Steed who steers this vessel through rough waters and much heavy laughter to bring it smoothly into port! Not that any of this company is out of their depth.

Simon Green, as butler Crestwell, has a tongue as sharp as one demobbed from service in the sergeants' mess. And both Andrew Scarborough, as Earl Nigel, and Damien Matthews (film star Don Lucas), have the weight of handsome maturity about them befitting romantic leads of the 1950s. I bet they wear Anthony Steele's crew necks after the show!

As Moxie, the domestic pet whose neuroses trigger the whole issue, Abigail McKern appears at first too slight for this sort of thing. But once confronted by her preening sister Miranda (Claire Swinburne), the feathers truly fly - much to the entertainment of us all.

Alison Skilbeck and Michael Stroud add generously to the fun as the eccentric Haylings while Jessica Curtis's pre-war design, complete with metal window frames, encourages belief in those girl guides in the garden.

This performance, however, is Steed's flagship and is well worth a return trip. Indeed, the production has already been given an extension to the run.

Yet where, oh where shall we find such fun without upper classes?

"Relative Values" runs until 26th February

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole