A light comedy in three Acts
/ ASSOC. PRODUCERS: Paul Rattigan and Michael Walker.
DIRECTOR: Eric Styles
PRODUCER: Christopher Milburn for Midsummer Films
FINANCED BY: The Los Angeles-based Overseas FilmGroup and the Isle of Man Film Commission
RUNNING TIME: 89 mins
CAST: Julie Andrews [Countess Felicity], Colin Firth [Peter], Sophie Thompson [Moxie], Stephen Fry [Crestwell], Edward Atterton [Nigel], Jeanne Tripplehorn [Miranda], Billy Baldwin [Don Lucas], Anwen Carlisle [Alice] et al
It is indeed a very funny play, where the the dowager Countess Felicity, her sartorially splendid and mischevious nephew Peter and the butler Crestwell gets all the laughs. I can easily see why Colin Firth was attracted to play Peter - a Noël Coward surrogate role!
The action revolves around the aristocratic Marshwood family and its reaction to a newcomer. Havoc reign when Nigel, Earl of Marshwood, announces his intention to marry the American actress Miranda Frayle. The satirical main story line is drawn out as the Countess, Miss Frayle and the maid in disguise - Moxie - converse, the latter cleverly revealing the flaws in the American's rags-to-riches tale. There are those who claim Relative Valuesis Coward slapping Americans in the face, particularly Hollywood types, for their shallowness and lack of style, and satirizing the Brits for their pomposity. There is also a distinct post World War II feel - the altering of British society, the old Thomas Wolfe view of life. Firth plays the role of Peter, the Countess of Marshwood's witty and sophisticated nephew. His voyeur like role is thought by some to be based on the character of Noel Coward.
Colin Firth about his role and the production: "I was instantly attracted to the role because of Noël Coward's wonderful writing. You simply cannot get better dialogue; his lines are airy, witty and beautifully constructed. I had never performed Coward before so it was slightly like going into uncharted water which was exciting."
"Peter basically spends his time hanging around the place. He's a harmless mischief-maker who enjoys the crisis that's unfolding and he treats it all as a bit of a game. I haven't modelled my character upon Noel Coward because it is very important to appropriate a role and make it your own. After all, the delivery of a line now is certainly not going to be the same as it was forty years ago."
Firth found director Eric Styles "very calm with a quiet authority. He never adopts an obvious approach and he's very sure-footed in his direction, so he always stops things from becoming stilted and avoids the potential pitfalls that a play adaptation can fall into." Click here to see these and more Firth-interviews online. Colin is commenting on his role, about Noel Cowards writing and sense of humour, about filming with Julie Andrews and more. Poor picture quality, but OK sound, so it's still worth a visit.