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Steven Pacey in Relative Values – Review by Saba

Steven Pacey in Relative Values at the Theatre Royal, Bath, 29th June 2013

Starring: Patricia Hodge, Rory Bremner, Caroline Quentin, Katherine Kingsley and Ben Mansfield
Written by Noel Coward
Directed by Trevor Nunn


Review by Saba


“It’s Called Acting!”

Relative Values is a play set in the early 1950s. The sets were lovely and very detailed. The staging as a whole was beautifully assured. The play was interspersed with movie clips from the time, which helped to set the piece in its historical and social context.

The story revolves around Her Ladyship, the Dowager Countess of Marshwood (Patricia Hodge) whose son, the Earl, has just announced his engagement to Miranda Frayle, a famous Hollywood actress. In those days, this was, quite simply, Not The Done Thing. The Earl would be marrying out of his class, beneath himself, scorning his breeding, his family, his tenants and his position. Etc.

The servants are distressed. Crestwell the butler (Rory Bremner) is phlegmatic, but Moxie, Her Ladyship’s maid (Caroline Quentin) takes it by far the hardest and is so upset that her tears flow plentifully. Conversely, one of the housemaids is obsessed by The Movies and is tremendously excited about the whole thing!

Her Ladyship’s nephew, Peter (Steven Pacey) finds the whole situation highly entertaining and is often to be seen upstage, chortling away up his sleeve, and occasionally even collapsed on the sofa and kicking his heels with glee.

An elderly Admiral, Sir John Hayling, and his wife are friends of the Dowager Countess. Very County and tremendously proper, their reactions are a kind of “class barometer”. Then there is Don Lucas, the tremendously good looking Leading Man from Hollywood, and the on-off love of Miranda’s life. When he had learned of her engagement to an English Earl, he immediately caught a plane across the Atlantic and dashed straight to Marshwood House to find out if it was really true and to persuade Miranda to reconsider. Her Ladyship finds Don and Miranda, in a very prolonged clinch, “saying goodbye”. And of course, she has ideas...

Some of the funniest moments in the play concern the handsome Don: the gaping housemaid who is visibly overwhelmed to find her idol in the sitting room; the procession of servants (who are too keen NOT to apply make up, but too excited to apply it properly) who find it necessary to help to serve him tea on a tray. And then forget themselves and remain.

There were girl guides hiding in the flowerbeds and journalists and autograph hunters at the front door - and none of them are aware of the comedy of manners progressing inside the house, since Moxie (who after a show of clam-like reticence) confesses to being Miranda's cast-off sister. In order to avoid the impossibly embarrassing situation that this would cause in the 1950s, she therefore assumes the persona of a long-lost family friend - with very funny consequences.

As Peter Ingleton, Steven was cheerfulness personified and had some wonderful moments. His brick red neck and face as he giggled; plonking a cushion on his aunt’s lap and idling on both it and the sofa. The ladies in our party somehow managed to contain themselves during a certain, “bottom tapping” moment (ahem)! He played a sort of mature Bertie Wooster, who was vacant and giggly most of the time, but could be relied on to take a friend or relative into the shrubbery for a sensible chat when called into action. He was on top form and raised a lot of laughs. When we met him and chatted after the show, and suggested that he really seemed to take to the part, Steven replied: 'It's called acting!' A likely story!

The Telegraph review suggests that this play must be destined for the West End. Fingers crossed, because its run is otherwise far too short. Catch it while you can!






Rehearsal photograph by Catherine Ashmore and production photograph by Donald Cooper.
Curtain call photograph by Diane Gies.






















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