We review Valued Friends at the Rose
Can this 30th anniversary revival of Stephen Jeffreys’ comedy deliver?
Premiering in 1989 to critical acclaim, Stephen Jeffreys’ play follows four housemates and what happens to their friendships when a property developer offers them a considerable sum of cash to pack up and ship out of their Earls Court flat. Having lived there over a decade, they have become a close-knit urban family but the dilemma they suddenly face pushes the very limits of loyalties. Should they hold out for more and make a fast buck out of booming property market themselves? Or should they take the cash and move on to explore what life holds for them?
This revival, directed by Michael Fentiman, takes us on a full-on nostalgia fest with a booming eighties soundtrack, retro knitwear and one of the main characters sporting a dapper ‘tache. It is fast-paced and energetic and we are moved from comedy (provided in particular by Natalie Casey as Sherry and Nicolas Tennant as the fabulous builder, Stewart) to empathy with considered performances from Catrin Stewart (Marion), Sam Frenchum (Paul) and Michael Marcus (Howard). Ralph Davis plays the brilliantly slithery developer, Scott.
I must admit to getting a little lost with some of the relationships – I wasn’t quite convinced that the ‘cool’ Marion could ever be besties with ditzy Sherry and I wasn’t sure how this eclectic assortment came to be together in the first place, let alone be with each other for a decade.
But there are some great moments – Sherry’s anguish when she has to hand back her door key while Marion has rather tactlessly bought them all Champagne and Howard’s lines about how he tried to escape his poor upbringing in Scotland is poignant.
The play very much resonates today, particularly in London (although today’s young renters will wonder how on earth it was so easy to get on the property ladder in prime London real estate) and how we form our own ragtag families far from home, our obsession with property, wealth and class, and what happens when our values and dreams are suddenly challenged. This is part comedy, part morality play and it raises some interesting dilemmas.
Valued Friends is on at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, until 12 October.