WE WERE PROMISED HONEY! at the Soho Theatre
“It’s a sunny outlook on a very bleak landscape, but somehow it does the trick”
After singing along to two choruses of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ with writer-performer Sam Ward and the rest of the audience, my theatre buddy takes her arm from around my shoulders as the lights go up, turns to me, and, smiling blissfully, says, “I didn’t get it.” That’s almost as much as you need to know really.
We Were Promised Honey! is a calmly conveyed confusion: In August 2018 a baggage handler, Richard, stole a plane and, after performing some amazing stunts, inevitably died on crash landing. Ward interlaces this with some very controlled audience participation, and long surreal monologues about what will happen after the play is finished- in five hours most of you will be asleep, in eight hours, one of you will send an email saying, ‘Great, thanks Claire’ before walking into your boss’s office and quitting to become a farmer. In fifty years, one of you will think you’re Jesus. In 500 years, when the sky turns black, one of you will turn to your partner and say, ‘Why does it always end like this?’
The evening is split into three, and before the start of each section, Ward gives his audience a choice: We can sit here in silence until the advertised runtime of the show is over, or, even though you already know it’s going to end badly, you can hear what happens next. I can’t imagine there’s ever been an audience so hive-minded and strong-willed not to say ‘I would like to know what happens next’ so it’s not much of a risk, but it makes the point Ward is, I think, trying to make: Yes, we are all going to die, and the world will eventually end, and one day the last black hole will eat itself and there will be nothing left. But in the meantime, there’s plenty to see and do and say, and we needn’t sit in silence, waiting for the end to come.
It’s a sunny outlook on a very bleak landscape, but somehow it does the trick, and rather than feeling despairing and solemn, the audience leaves the auditorium heartened, in an almost festival atmosphere. Of course, that might not be Ward’s point at all, and maybe I just didn’t get it. But paired with David Doyle’s seemingly godly lighting, Carmel Smickersgill’s contemplative soundscape, and Ward’s smiling self-assuredness, it doesn’t really matter how it’s supposed to end. The point is I enjoyed the journey.
Reviewed on 23rd November 2022
by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Mihaela Bodlovic
Previously reviewed at this venue: