Review: Valued Friends

Valued Friends isn’t a play that makes you want to change the world but it is one that you don’t want to end.

Valued Friends, Corpus Playroom 24th-28th November, Directed by Olivia Crellin


Valued Friends is such easy viewing it throws 4oD into somewhat of a negative light; the laptop screen is too small, it takes ages to load, there are advert breaks and your legs get precariously hot if you try and watch it on your lap in bed.  While the plot of Stephen Jeffrey’s play is by no means the high-tension rollercoaster that the poster’s catch phrase ‘four friends, one flat, double or nothing’ would suggest I really enjoyed it, happy to sit back and enjoy the show.  That is until until the incredibly random curtain call, which burst the bubble with the force of a sledgehammer.

The play tells the tale of four friends who live happily together in a flat until a property developer turns up and tries to buy them out, they are stubborn about not selling, all with different motives influenced by their sort-of interesting lives.  Not that much happens, making it impressive that it is so engaging and surprising that it was so predictable.  Before I had turned my head back after asking my friend whether she thought Marion and Paul would get back together she had dragged him half way across the stage into the bedroom.

The sense that it was the 80’s was set up brilliantly with the feel good music, the first row doing some very enthusiastic dancing and the character’s clever encorporating signs telling us date and location into the action.  Flawlessly, scene’s morphed into each other over passing months, with the actors staying strongly in character as they re-arranged the set under flashing disco lighting.  Where last week’s Corpus Playroom production Marvin’s Room missed a trick, Valued Friends completely understood there is nowhere to go into the interval, the show continuing as Howard, the geeky academic, bustles around at his desk, organizing post-its.

The acting got off to a shakey start with Matt Kilroy’s Howard starting off a bit autistic but quickly found its feet blossoming into six good performances.  Oliver Marsh’s Paul was an outstanding example of naturalistic acting but in moments a bit moronic, mouth fallen open as his relationship with uncomfortably-taller-than-him Victoria Ball’s Marion fell apart.  The highlight was Toby Jones as Stewart, the mate who comes to help with renovating the flat who really made me laugh out loud, overshadowing Oskar McCarthy’s over the top Anthony Scott, the Estate Agent.

I am not entirely sure why anyone would have sat down and written Valued Friends.  As a play it doesn’t make you want to change the world or any of the things people in it do: go travelling, by a flat, have a baby, backcomb my hair and wear 80’s prints.  But, equally Crellin’s production really didn’t make me want it to end.