Joanna Murray-Smith’s play Honour, which received its British premiere in 2003 at the National Theatre, is about the nature of relationships.
Journalist George suddenly ends his 32-year marriage to Honour when he falls in love with Claudia, the young writer who is interviewing him.
The themes may be timeless but age has not been kind to Murray-Smith’s play – it’s a didactic piece on the complexity of the human condition that lacks a human touch.
Paul Robinson’s direction may have pace but the pitch of this play is off kilter. The intimacy of his in-the-round staging only amplifies the fact that the play consists of a stream of declamatory monologues. There’s an uncertainty of tone that turns this into a hiss-the-villain style of middle-class drama. Liz Cooke’s set design is artistically impressive but does little to the play beyond defining the space.
Production company Tiny Fires has gathered an incredible cast including Henry Goodman, playing George, and Imogen Stubbs as Honour. Katie Brayben has possibly the most difficult task, required to find empathy with the distinctly unlikeable Claudia, who destroys a marriage in a thinly veiled ploy to improve her own career.
The problem is that for all this talent on display, so little of the play rings true. Natalie Simpson, as the couple’s daughter Sophie, is momentarily interesting, berating her parents for their cowardice, but for all the carefully chosen words, nothing feels fully explored emotionally.