REVIEW: Star Quality at the Theatre Royal, Brighton

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IT’S not one of his most well-known pieces, but Noël Coward’s Star Quality has just that.

Showing at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday (February 25), it’s about a group of actors putting on their own play.

As a very self-aware affair, the audience gets to see all the backstage dramas and tantrums; tensions and relationships that go hand-in-hand with putting on a theatrical production. And this version, directed by Joe Harmston, does a beautiful job of transporting us back to the world of 1950s show-business.

Star Quality was originally written by Coward as a short story in 1951, but wasn’t adapted for the stage until 1967. It’s an exploration of what makes a star, particularly a leading lady, perhaps based on Coward’s own experiences of working with many, which he chronicled in his diary.

The plot follows the fortunes of the cast of Dark Heritage, a production written by fledgling playwright Bryan Snow (Bob Saul). He and show director Ray Malcolm (Daniel Casey) manage to cast the infamous Lorraine Barrie (Liza Goddard) in the main role, who, as the ultimate diva, insists on plot changes and demands her friend is cast in a supporting role. But it’s when things don’t go her way that the fun really begins...

The cast is headed-up by Goddard, a theatre stalwart who has had several successful TV outings, including starring in the popular series Brothers. She plays Barrie with aplomb, with just the right mix of hysteria and comedy, and those supporting her do a fantastic job of making her appear as the megalomaniac she quite clearly is.

It might not be as acclaimed as some of his earlier work, such as Blithe Spirit or Private Lives, but Star Quality, Coward’s final play, gives an insight into his musings on the theatrical world, and for that, it’s definitely worth seeing.

For tickets, call 0844 871 7650.