Reviewed – 30th October 2018
“doesn’t use the opportunity of a revival to explore deeper the rage and disappointment bubbling under the script’s surface”
‘Honour’ is a topical and gripping four-hander that paints an honest portrait of middle-class life collapsing in on itself. Witty and erudite, Joanna Murray-Smith’s script, here revived after a successful National Theatre production in 2003, retains its relevance and is even enhanced playing now in a society were gender politics and the nature of relationships have moved firmly into the spotlight.
Henry Goodman plays George, an affable, “pretentiously casual” writer and intellectual being interviewed for a volume on ‘great minds’ by the ambitious and direct Claudia (Katie Brayben). Her presence in George’s life aggressively rocks the comfortable middle-class boat he and his writer wife Honour (Imogen Stubbs) have been cruising in for the last thirty-two years, and George’s decision to leave forces Honour, with the help of their daughter Sophie (Natalie Simpson), to re-evaluate what her life has become, and what it could have been.
Although familiar territory, Murray-Smith’s play asks some useful questions about resentment, guilt, passion, and above all love. How much should a person sacrifice for another? How much of our own lives do we give up out of a sense of duty to someone else’s? It pits careerism against relationships, a conflict particularly relevant in millennial circles and here a gentle reminder that it’s never too late for change.
The ensemble are convincing in their relationships and expertly play the insecurities, thought changes and verbal stop/starts that pepper the script. Stubbs and Goodman are riveting to watch and handle the emotional weight of their characters’ choices well. Sudden blackouts keep the audience on their toes, and Liz Cooke’s set, with its dilapidated blue wave looming over the course of events, foreshadows the story nicely but fails to ask any real questions of the script. The pastel blues of banal middle-class life are shocked into action by the blacks and reds of Claudia’s costume. Paul Robinson’s direction keeps things pacey and balanced, but again, doesn’t use the opportunity of a revival to explore deeper the rage and disappointment bubbling under the script’s surface.
Luckily, this is a gripping study of marriage with instantly relatable characters played by talented actors. It’s certainly a middle-class play about middle-class problems, but by playing it safe, misses out on directly challenging its seemingly middle-class audience itself. How much resentment, how much regret, do you carry around under the visage of well-to-do urban existence?
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Alex Brenner
Park Theatre until 24th November
Previously reviewed at this venue:
THEATRE ROYAL BATH ANNOUNCES
JONATHAN CHURCH’S INAUGURAL
SUMMER SEASON 2017
Olivier award-winner David Haig will star in David Hare’s Racing Demons from 21 June to 8 July, directed by Jonathan Church
BAFTA winner Edward Fox will star in Hugh Whitemore’s Sand in the Sandwiches from 11 to 15 July, directed by Gareth Armstrong
UK premiere of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest from 21 July to 12 August, directed by Simon Phillips
Oliver award winner Henry Goodman stars in the world premiere of Alan Franks’ Looking at Lucian from 3 August to 2 September at the Ustinov Studio, directed by Tom Attenborough
Alan Bennett’s classic play The Lady in the Van from 16 August to 2 September, directed by Jonathan Church
PRIORITY BOOKING OPENS
SATURDAY 11 MARCH AT 10AM
with general on-sale on Monday 27 March at 10am
Jonathan Church succeeds Peter Hall as Artistic Director, who established the Theatre Royal Bath Summer Season in 2003 with his company’s annual residencies. Church was previously Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre, overseeing over 100 productions including Taken at Midnight, ENRON, Macbeth with Sir Patrick Stewart, Sweeney Todd and Gypsy. Following his departure from Chichester Festival Theatre, Jonathan Church set up his own independent production company, which he will continue to lead alongside his new position at Theatre Royal Bath. Church said:
‘Having regularly seen the work at Theatre Royal Bath under Peter Hall’s directorship, I’m extremely proud to be the new Director of Bath’s summer seasons and hope to continue Peter’s tradition of bringing great artists to Bath and to balance the familiar with the new. A summer season for me always needs an element of festival and celebration about it and I hope that with this programme of work we are celebrating a number of iconic storytellers – David Hare, Alan Bennett, Hugh Whitemore and Alfred Hitchcock, alongside a group of extraordinary actors.’
Wednesday 21 June – Saturday 8 July
Jonathan Church will direct Olivier Award-winner David Haig as Lionel Espy in David Hare’s multi-award winning play Racing Demons, which tackles the role of the clergy and the church’s role in modern Britain. Further casting will be announced in due course.
David Haig has previously performed at Theatre Royal Bath in The Madness of George III and King Lear. Other recent theatre credits include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Old Vic), Blue/Orange (Young Vic), Guys & Dolls (Savoy Theatre) and Our Country’s Good (Royal Court), for which he won the Olivier Award. Notable film and television credits include Four Weddings and a Funeral, Witness for the Prosecution, The Thick of It and Mo.
David Hare is one of the UK’s foremost playwrights and screenwriters with plays including The Judas Kiss, Skylight, Amy’s View and Plenty. He received Academy Award nominations for his adaptations of The Hours and The Reader.
SAND IN THE SANDWICHES
Tuesday 11 July – Saturday 15 July
Following an acclaimed sell-out run at Chichester Festival Theatre, triple BAFTA winner Edward Fox will return to Bath in the celebrated one-man play exploring the life and work of poet John Betjeman. Written by Hugh Whitemore and directed by Gareth Armstrong, Sand in the Sandwiches celebrates a man famous not only for light verse and laughter, but for his passions, his sense of purpose and his unforgettable poetry.
Edward Fox’s distinguished career counts iconic British films including the Oscar winning Ghandi, The Day of the Jackal, A Bridge Too Far, Oh! What a Lovely War, The Dresser, The Go-Between and James Bond’s Never Say Never Again. His stage credits include: The Audience, Four Quartets, Hamlet, An Evening with Anthony Trollope and Letter of Resignation.
Hugh Whitemore, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, is an award-winning writer whose work spans stage and screen. Theatre credits include As You Desire Me, Stevie, Pack of Lies and The Best of Friends. Films credits include Jane Eyre (1996) and 84 Charing Cross Road. With over 70 television credits, Whitemore has written for broadcasters in both the UK and USA, winning two Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Awards and two Emmy Awards.
Gareth Armstrong specialises in solo performance and has helped to create a dozen such theatre pieces, including Hugh Whitemore’s My Darling Clemmie and his own dramatisation of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, called Wilde Without the Boy.
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Friday 21 July – Saturday 12 August
Following its world premiere in Melbourne, Alfred Hitchcock’s supreme comedy of suspense North by Northwest will receive its UK premiere at Theatre Royal Bath in a new stage adaptation of Hitchcock’s film by Carolyn Burns, directed by Simon Phillips.
Carolyn Burns’ latest work includes the stage adaptation of Australian novel Ladies in Black and Good People which was performed at the International Playwriting Festival in South London.
Simon Phillips is a New Zealand-Australian director and former Artistic Director of Melbourne Theatre Company. Previous theatre credits include Priscilla Queen of the Desert on Broadway and Love Never Dies in Melbourne.
Casting will be announced in due course.
LOOKING AT LUCIAN
Thursday 3 August – Saturday 2 September
Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio will stage the World Premiere of mesmerising fly-on-the-wall drama Looking at Lucian by Alan Franks, directed by Tom Attenborough. Olivier Award winner Henry Goodman will star as Lucian Freud, widely regarded to be the greatest living portrait painter of our time, as he works in his Kensington Studio, painting a portrait across the course of ten months.
Henry Goodman’s extensive career includes seasons with the RSC and National Theatre. His awards include both the Olivier Award and Critics’ Circle Award for Best Actor for Trevor Nunn’s The Merchant of Venice and the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical for Assassins. Other acclaimed performances include Hysteria in which he played Lucian Freud’s grandfather, Sigmund Freud, Chicago, Fiddler on the Roof, Broken Glass and Jonathan Church’s production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.
Alan Franks was a feature writer and columnist for The Times for 30 years, interviewing numerous international stars from the world of music, theatre and literature. Franks’ playwriting credits include The Mother Tongue, The Edge of the Land and A World Elsewhere.
Tom Attenborough is the Artistic Director of Rhapsody of Words Productions, Associate Director of the Watermill Theatre and Artistic Associate of HighTide Festival Theatre. Attenborough’s directing credits include Burbage’s Farewell (Minerva Theatre Chichester), Twelfth Night, Bell Book & Candle (US & UK Tour), Untold Stories (Watermill) and The 24 Hour Plays (The Old Vic).
THE LADY IN THE VAN
Wednesday 16 August – Saturday 2 September
Jonathan Church will direct the closing production of the 2017 Summer Season, Alan Bennett’s classic play The Lady in the Van. Casting will be announced in due course.
Originally a memoir, a radio series, and recently a film, The Lady in the Van is the touching, uplifting and wonderfully funny story of Miss Mary Shepherd, a homeless woman, who temporarily moved her clapped out Bedford van into Alan Bennett’s front garden at Gloucester Crescent, Camden. She remained parked there for the next 15 years.
Alan Bennett’s extensive credits include Single Spies, Talking Heads, The Madness of King George, The History Boys and Enjoy.
Theatre Royal Bath, Sawclose, Bath, BA1 1ET
By David Hare
Directed by Jonathan Church
Dates: Wednesday 21 June – Saturday 8 July
Performance schedule: Monday – Saturday, 7.30pm; Matinees Thursday & Saturday, 2.30pm (No Matinee 22 June)
Prices: £19.50 – £35.50 (Previews: £15 – £25)
Sand in the Sandwiches
By Hugh Whitemore
Directed by Gareth Armstrong
Dates: Tuesday 11 July – Saturday 15 July
Performance schedule: Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm; Matinees Wednesday & Saturday 2.30pm
Prices: £19.50 – £35.50
North by Northwest
Adapted for the stage from Alfred Hitchcock’s film by Carolyn Burns
Directed by Simon Phillips
Dates: Friday 21 July – Saturday 12 August
Performance schedule: Monday – Saturday, 7.30pm; Matinees Thursday & Saturday, 2.30pm
Prices: £21.50 – £37.50 (Previews: £15 – £25)
The Lady in the Van
By Alan Bennett
Directed by Jonathan Church
Dates: Wednesday 16 August – Saturday 2 September
Performance schedule: Monday – Saturday, 7.30pm; Matinees Thursday & Saturday, 2.30pm (No matinee 17 August)
Prices: £19.50 – £35.50 (Previews: £15 – £25)
Looking at Lucian
By Alan Franks
Directed by Tom Attenborough
Designed by Carla Goodman
Dates: Thursday 3 August – Saturday 2 September
Press Night: Thursday 10 August, 7pm
Performance schedule: Monday – Saturday, 7.30pm; Matinees Thursday & Saturday, 2.30pm (No matinees 3 or 10 August)
Prices: £24.50 / £17.50 concessions (Previews: £15)