It seems ludicrous to imagine that a fledgling stand-up comic, an academic, a music journalist and an admin assistant might be able to club together to buy a flat in central London. Of course, it was the 1980s and Stephen Jeffreys’ play Valued Friends had a point to make about the changing attitudes toward home-ownership in the capital.
In its first major revival since it opened at the Hampstead Theatre in 1989, the play observes four friends as greed and ambition kick in.
Ostensibly this is a comedy, and many of the laughs are provided by Natalie Casey in full-kook mode as Sherry, a struggling comedian who is constantly broke. Jeffreys deftly switches gear however as the friends realise the killing they can make. With practically each scene there’s some new fiscal wrangle and as the group reassess their financial position, so they drift further apart as an urban family.
As prophetic as Jeffreys’ play must have seemed at the time, today its truths are mostly awkward and uncomfortable. Things aren’t helped by a Michael Taylor’s revolving set that never really quite delivers the potential this property is supposed to have.
Director Michael Fentiman has gathered a strong cast, especially Catrin Stewart as the shrewd Marion, whose ambition fuels the narrative of the play. It’s a quiet and considered performance rightly contrasting starkly with Casey’s, although here, it’s difficult to see the two as once close friends. Fentiman’s revival may be well cast but it’s never quite clear whether this a morality play or a comedy about those too timid to take advantage of the property boom.