Tag Archives: Natalie Simpson

Honour – 3 Stars



Park Theatre

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:
There or Here | ★★★½ | January 2018
A Princess Undone | ★★★ | February 2018
Passage to India | ★★★ | February 2018
Vincent River | ★★★★ | March 2018
Pressure | ★★★★ | April 2018
Building the Wall | ★★★★ | May 2018
End of the Pier | ★★★★ | July 2018
The Rise & Fall of Little Voice | ★★★★ | August 2018
Distance | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Other Place | ★★★ | September 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com



The Cardinal

Southwark Playhouse

Opening Night – 28 April 2017


“An exceptional evening with a top quality cast”

The Southwark Playhouse has a reputation for staging lost musicals. Recent productions there have received rave reviews and played to full houses. So would audience reaction be to a show written some 375 years ago be a positive one? An emphatic yes. It is a must see show.

The Cardinal, a blood thirsty tragedy of lust and power was written in 1641 by James Shirley a year before theatres were closed by Oliver Cromwell at the outbreak of the Civil War. Modern productions of Shirley’s plays are rare so seeing it in 2017 is both an historic education and gift.

The story tells of a power hungry Cardinal and the recently widowed Duchess Rosaura.

Despite the King’s promise that the Duchess will be free to choose her next husband, she finds she has to marry the Cardinal’s nephew Columbo, whom she abhors. When Columbo is sent off to lead a military campaign the Duchess asks in a letter for him to release her. Columbo mistakenly thinks she is merely testing him, shows himself generous and does so.

In Columbo’s absence Rosaura claims the hand of the gallant Alvares whom she has secretly desired.

This sets up an intriguing mixture of revenge, bluff and counter bluff, feigned madness, happiness, sadness, a terrific sword fight and the odd death or two.

A strong cast of eleven gave faultless and word perfect performances. The titular role is played expertly by experienced actor Stephen Boxer who brings a ‘John Hurt’ feel to the role. It is a joy to watch Natalie Simpson as Rosaura, her credits for the Royal Shakespeare Company include King Lear and Hamlet. She commands the stage space bringing both laughter and tears in her performance. Jay Saihal brings to life the menacing character Columbo and Timothy Speyer is the funny and likeable Antonio.

There is strong direction from Justin Audibert and Anna Reid’s design is a stark set of grey stone which transports to viewer into what seems to be a cathedral nave and allows to audience to focus solely on the actors. The overall experience is enhanced by clever lighting and sound.

Overall this was an exceptional evening out in Southwark. To be able to experience a top quality cast in a 375 year old play in such intimate surroundings was rare. The production would not seem out of place at a larger venue and perhaps it does deserve a larger audience.


This highly recommended play is at The Southwark Playhouse until May 27th



Photography by – Mitzi de Margary