Rory Bremner is starring in Theatre Royal Bath’s new production of Noël Coward’s Relative Values, coming to Richmond Theatre in July. Ahead of his visit, Vicky Smith asked him a few questions about his rehearsal experiences so far.
Tell us about the play…
I'd not seen Relative Values before but it's a belter - brilliantly observed and fizzing with wit, it marked a grand return to top form for Noel Coward. Set very specifically in 1951, it's a comedy of manners and a pin-sharp reflection on the changing values of the time, as an aristocratic stately home prepares to welcome a Hollywood star into the family - with dramatic and unexpected results. Class, celebrity, traditional values, social revolution - even the vagaries of the Kent railway timetable - all come under Noel Coward's acute comic gaze, and many of the themes are surprisingly relevant today.
What have been your highlights so far?
It's been quite a ride. Being my first ever play, there's been a lot to learn about the rehearsal process and understanding a play. Luckily the director, Trevor Nunn, is the best in the business. He's masterly, from the moment he set out his vision of the play to the extraordinary intelligence, focus and creative energy he brings to it. I've learnt a lot and enjoyed it hugely.
What are the rest of the cast like?
A nightmare. No, seriously, they're a joy. I sort of knew they would be, with Patricia Hodge and Caroline Quentin in the show, but the others are all so well cast, have a great mixture of youth and experience and are such fun to work with. I love watching them when I'm not on and have to resist the temptation to enjoy them when I'm meant to be in character. It wouldn't do for the butler to be laughing at the guests.
Why is Richmond Theatre such a great place to perform?
It's a lovely size theatre, has great history and is in the heart of the community. I did a show there as part of my Election Battlebus tour in 2010 and enjoyed it very much. With so many theatres under threat, it's important that local theatres are valued and well attended. I'm sure people will really enjoy the play and we'll enjoy being there.
What other London theatres do you like?
I've done a couple of shows at the Young Vic - a translation of a Brecht comedy and one of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld - and I love the lively atmosphere of that theatre. Also the Greenwich Theatre, where I've done some stand-up shows. From that I guess I like the community theatres more than the big commercial ones.
What would be your ‘dream’ role?
To be honest I didn't imagine I'd get the chance to act - as opposed to performing comedy. I'm still working at being myself. When I get that right I'll be happy.
Relative Values runs at Richmond Theatre from Monday 8 to Saturday 13 July.
Q&A originally printed in the July issue of The Richmond Resident magazine.