Relative Values by Noel Coward – The Southwood Players Thursday 4th July 2014 by Revd Alex Pease

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I am not sure that I can think of a more enjoyable way to spend the evening.  Eating supper al fresco with the dying rays of an English summer sun, wine flowing in abundance, the beautiful view from the garden of Southwood House, and the very witty play ‘Relative Values’ by Noel Coward performed totally brilliantly by the Southwood Players.

The casting agent is certainly to be commended for the quite excellent selection of stars to perform this play full of crisp one liners and wonderfully Dowager Lady Grantham-esque put downs, which were brilliantly delivered by Lavinia Owen, clearly relishing her role as Lady Marshwood.  What a huge amount of lines!

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The giggling girl guides provided brilliantly mobile crowd scenes.  The philosophical butler Crestwell and the star struck maid Alice were accomplished performances by very good character actors Steve Percy and Annabelle Woosnam.  Ian May-Miller’s Peter Ingleton was delightfully louche and the Haylings performed by Geoff Dee and Judy Bishop presented exactly the right sort of snobbish foil to Lady Marshwood’s initial wish to move with the times.  Charles Seligman was so convincing as the Earl of Marshwood that I really think that Julian Fellowes should cast him as a principal role in the next series of Downton Abbey.  Iain Macleod’s Don Lucas was the very image of the Hollywood beau, with a very accomplished accent but perhaps from a part of the US to which I have not travelled yet…And as for Maddy Woosnam as Miranda Frayle – well you are a film star Maddy – you just are….!

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Perhaps the most tricky role of all was played by Mary Hall as Moxie.  It’s really two parts in one – the ladies maid and then the ladies maid playing the poor relation – very challenging, but my goodness it was well executed – a huge range of emotions.

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With a production of this kind though, it is perhaps the back-stagers who get easily forgotten by the audience.  Alex Percy (prompter), Judy Bishop (as set designer) Patrick Appleby (as consulting engineer and set building), Jill Croft, Chris Ellis, Clare Gaster, Sophie Jackson, Lyn Russell, Vernon Tottle, Di Wilson, James Woosnam and many others.

But the success of a production of this kind hinges so much on the talents and energies of the director – Anna McGowan.  It was fabulous.  What a great project!

And then the whole fund raising side of things magnificently led by Nick Owen – efficient and really very very exciting lots – do go to the Southwood Players website if you have not bid yet for something…

On behalf of one of the beneficiaries – the Itchen Valley Parish – may I thank the talented Southwood Players and their supporters for a fabulous evening and for the contribution that you make to covering our huge annual expenditure.  As the programme says, we have an annual budget of £120,000, but receive no grants and depend on events like this to maintain our great church buildings in worship and community use.

Thank you so much everyone for your contribution!

Revd Alex Pease

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