Paul Robinson directs this revival of Joanna Murray-Smith’s 1995 play at the Park Theatre.
Honour tells the story of husband and wife George and Honor – both successful writers in their respective fields – whose marriage of 32 years is thrown into disarray with the arrival of the intelligent, beautiful and self-assured Claudia. Over the course of two hours, George, Honor, their daughter Sophie and Claudia explore what love is, and what it means to be loved.
It is, at times, a challenging piece. It proffers a very frank and intimate portrait of what can happen when a secure marriage begins to fail, and what can happen when one person’s life has the opportunity be renewed and restored at the expense of another. The shifting power dynamics over the course of the play are intriguing, but at times uncomfortable to watch. It asks a lot of questions – how is a relationship sustained when the passion fades? Should it be? Are the traditional values associated with marriage still applicable?
At times it’s heavy going, but the more intense scenes are offset with numerous more lighthearted moments. The text is strong – intelligent and witty throughout – and has been sensitively updated with a smattering of contemporary references. Production is quite minimal – the set and lighting are both very simplistic – but utilised effectively. Performing in the round means each audience member is offered a close up, but unique, perspective on proceedings.
The quality of the acting is superb. Double Olivier Award-winner Henry Goodman delivers a real powerhouse performance as George, as does Imogen Stubbs starring opposite him as wife Honor. Both impressed with believable and balanced performances, which we completely bought into right from the start. Olivier Award-winner Katie Brayben was commendable as Claudia, while Natalie Simpson as Sophie had some entertaining moments.
While there is a lot to recommend here, we acknowledge that it may have a bit of a niche appeal. It’s a ferociously middle-class play, and while this may make for some entertaining punchlines – indeed some of its characters poke fun at themselves for being so – it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, although the humour does go down well in this charming, cosy Islington venue. At times it’s a bit too wordy, too – yes, the central characters are writers, but it does feel unnecessarily verbose in places.
We were really quite taken with Honour – it’s an intelligent and thought-provoking play which offers an intimate snapshot of a relationship at its most fragile. It may be challenging in places but it had us captivated throughout – during the interval we couldn’t wait to get back in to see how their story would unfold – and features some wonderful acting. Highly recommended.
Gay Times gives Honour – ★★★★☆
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