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: