An excellent cast – and accomplished direction – can’t quite rescue the Park’s revival of Honour from a text that feels dated, formulaic and self-satisfied.
Joanna Murray-Smith’s Honour deconstructs an idea still perpetuated by rom-coms, Disney flicks and trite Instagrammers. In the lone context of love and longing, we’re conditioned to understand that ‘following our hearts’ will always pay dividends. Logic can take a back seat, we’re told, because that vascular organ inside us ‘knows the way’ (and leads us to salvation) like nothing else can.
Like her eponymous central character (forsaken, after a 32-year marriage, for a woman her daughter’s age), Murray-Smith clearly sets out to prove this notion is as facile as they come. But Honour seems so preoccupied with magniloquent monologues (wherein characters ‘unpack’ their thought-processes and life choices like they’re delivering disquisitions) that – for a piece about human desire – proceedings come across as oddly impassive. Astute observations (mini-theses, practically) about the complexities of modern relationships are undoubtedly present, but stitched into a verbose text that often also feels a bit self-congratulatory.
Performances in the Park’s revival are, thankfully, unanimously strong though. Katie Brayben’s portrayal of Claudia (the career-focused, emerging journalist who’s aware and comfortable with her sexuality) is impressively sympathetic. Imogen Stubbs is definitely ‘theatrical’ as Honor (perhaps even hammy, at times), but I think the writing – particularly for her character – almost demands it. Her injection of energy into wordy scenes is also often a welcome relief. Natalie Simpson’s Sophie (daughter of George & Honor) delivers an arresting final monologue that’s more than worth the wait, and Henry Goodman is extremely competent as a narcissist who isn’t sure how, or whether it’s possible, to sustain a relationship when passion fades. Paul Robinson’s direction is also impressive; it’s apparent he’s done the due diligence (as much as possible, without changing the text anyway) to re-explore Honour‘s central arguments, and how to present each character, with the fresh eyes of 2018 – and he’s to be commended for that.
In sum, I basically sit through Honour nodding along to its interesting ideas, appreciating the performances and laughing in the right places – but simultaneously waiting for a bite or a ‘rug-pull’ moment that never materialises. I leave thinking that, if anything, too many ideas were not only crammed in but deconstructed to an inch of their lives; just like George’s issue with Claudia’s writing, perhaps not enough is left unsaid.