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SHADOW PLAY - Noel Coward

Samuel French Acting Edition Description

One of the "Tonight At 8:30" series produced in London and New York. Victoria has just returned from
the theatre where she saw a romantic musical. She takes an overdose of pills just before her husband
enters and announces divorce plans. Victoria, head buzzing, attempts to understand his reasons. She
slips into a fantastic dream that reviews their meeting, courtship and marriage. Coming to, she clings
to her husband and he reconsiders.

One of 10 shot plays that make up Tonight at 8.30 written to be performed across 3 evenings.


Patricia Hodge, left, is flawless as the conniving countess in Nol Cowards comedy at the
Harold Pinter theatre, London. Photograph: Tristram Kenton
I can't imagine Nol Coward's 1951 light comedy being much better done than it is here.
What is puzzling is why Trevor Nunn, having done such a beautiful restoration job on
Terence Rattigan's Flare Path, should choose to lavish similar loving care on a piece rancid
with snobbery.
1. Relative Values

2. by Nol Coward
3. Harold Pinter Theatre,
4. London
1. Directed by Trevor Nunn
To describe the situation briefly something no one could accuse Coward himself of doing
there is trouble at Marshwood House. Felicity, the countess, is dismayed that her errant son
plans to marry an American movie star, Miranda Frayle. But the countess's displeasure is
nothing compared with that of her personal maid, Moxie, who threatens to quit Marshwood
altogether, for intimate family reasons, before Miranda arrives. The action hinges on the
countess's plan to keep Moxie while scuppering the marriage.
The timing of the play is significant. Coward wrote it in 1951 shortly before the
Conservatives were returned to power; and the play celebrates a reversion to the natural order
of things where everyone knows his or her place. The countess's great desire is that her son
should marry "someone of his own class". When it's suggested to Moxie that she might, for
tactical reasons, be elevated to the rank of the countess's companion, she claims "it wouldn't
do, it wouldn't be right". And the play ends with the butler, Crestwell, unequivocally toasting
"the final inglorious disintegration of the most unlikely dream that ever troubled the foolish
heart of man Social Equality

Coward's politics, you could say, were his own business. But here he attempts to make them
ours as well by assuming we all share his assumptions about the horrors of socialism, the
Festival of Britain and marrying beneath one's station.
Compared with the crisp brilliance of his plays of the 1930s and 1940s, the plotting seems
loose and the dialogue flabby. But what is most puzzling is his faintly malicious portrait of
the American interloper. Could it be that Coward secretly resented the postwar American
theatrical takeover, especially given the signal failure of his own musical, Pacific 1860, at
Drury Lane?
Whatever the answer, the play has been done up to the nines by Nunn, who has cannily
inserted newsreel material to evoke the period. Patricia Hodge is flawless as the conniving
countess, although I'm intrigued by Coward's assumption that an endless capacity for ironic
insult is a sign of good breeding. Caroline Quentin lends the moody Moxie a permanent sense
of comic disgruntlement, Steven Pacey ingeniously finds a gay subtext in the underwritten
character of the countess's nephew, and Leigh Zimmerman invests the invasive movie star
with a grace and dignity that makes you feel she's the one who'd be marrying beneath her.
Rory Bremner even manages to reconcile one to the butler by suggesting his air of omniscient
superiority is carefully manufactured. But, while there's much pleasure to be had from the
stylish acting and direction, Coward's play remains a musty, tribal relic in praise of the class

Relative Values divides critics at West

End debut BBC NEWS

The action is set in the library of Marshwood Hall

Sir Trevor Nunn's revival of the Noel Coward play Relative Values, starring Patricia Hodge
and Rory Bremner, has divided critics on its opening night.
The 1951 play examining the class divide was "ideal for our Downton-obsessed times", said
The Telegraph.
But it was "a piece rancid with snobbery", countered The Guardian.

Sir Nol Peirce Coward (16 December 1899 26 March 1973) was an English
playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance,
and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of
cheek and chic, pose and poise".[
Find it Library resource - Reviews the film "Relative Values," directed by Eric
Styles. Notes that this film is based on Nel Coward's play of the same name.
Comments that an "antediluvian snobbery nonetheless stipples this slight