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Honour (Susan Elkin reviews)

Honour – ★★★
by Joanna Murray-Smith. Presented by Tiny Fires in association with Park Theatre.
society/company: Park Theatre
performance date: 30 Oct 2018
venue: Park200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP
Imogen Stubbs & Henry Goodman in Honour (Tiny Fires, Park Theatre). Photo by Alex Brenner

★★★

This well directed (Paul Robinson) piece features some of the most intelligent acting and articulate listening I’ve seen on stage in a while. Unfortunately that isn’t enough to make the evening as compellingly interesting as it should be because Joanna Murray-Smith’s 1995 play has too little narrative drive to sustain over two hours of theatre. And the ending is, frankly, a cop-out.

George (Henry Goodman) is an eminent, initially self-satisfied and always self-obsessed, journalist who falls for a younger woman (Katie Brayben) thereby terminating his outwardly successful, 32 year marriage to Honour (Imogen Stubbs). Their daughter (Natalie Simpson) is upset. Of course the new relationship is shortlived. It really isn’t much of a plot and the outcomes are entirely predictable.

However Murray-Smith writes dialogue beautifully and these four characters serve it well with lovely use made of pauses and beats – often to good comic effect. There are a surprising number of laughs amongst the cajoling, shouting, despair, desperation, anger and incredulity. It begins to feel samey, though, when you realise that almost every scene is a duologue. The rather wordy play needs more variety of interface. What would have happened, for instance, had all four characters found themselves in one room?

Natalie Simpson is outstanding as the daughter, Sophie, a Cambridge undergraduate trying, oh so naturalistically, first to grasp what her mother is trying to tell her and then confronting her errant father in immaculately observed youthful exasperation.

Brayben is strong as the very bright young journalist, focused on her own career and utterly certain that she is never, in any relationship going to take second place. She finds an unusual icy sexiness in Claudia.

And it goes almost without saying that there’s excellent work from Goodman and Stubbs, both fine actors at the top of their game. It’s a treat to watch them playing off each other here.

I haven’t seen Park200 configured completely in the round (seating on all four sides) before. It’s usually only three quarters but the fourth bank of seating helps to support the domestic intimacy of this play which is all done with half a dozen adaptable pale boxes and some minimal props (designed by Liz Cooke).

A lot to commend then. Just a pity the play’s a bit dull.

This review was first published by Sardines: http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-Park%20Theatre%20(professional)-Honour%20-%20%E2%98%85%E2%98%85%E2%98%85&reviewsID=3366

Author information
Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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