Theatre Review: Honour, Park Theatre, Finsbury Park

Imogen Stubbs and Henry Goodman in Honour at The Park Theatre picture Alex Brenner

Imogen Stubbs and Henry Goodman in Honour at The Park Theatre picture Alex Brenner - Credit: Archant

Award-winning actors cannot salvage a mis-firing script about sacrifice and marital infidelity

It all starts so promisingly. An ageing journalist warmly welcoming the rapid-fire questions of an enthusiastic young interviewer.

The subject of a profile piece, the elder married man, George (Henry Goodman), is flattered, enjoying his chance to have an intellectual repartee in a context in which he is unfamiliar but within a role that he is oh-so-acquainted.

His inquisitor is a young, erudite woman, Claudia (Katie Brayben): self-assured, poised and confident.

His wife, Honor (Imogen Stubbs), a former author herself, is an earnest woman, who placed her career on hold in order to raise the couple’s child and afford George the opportunity to pursue his ambitions.

Together, Honor and George are the epitome of a blissfully happy couple. Or so they seem. Perhaps they have unwittingly flatlined; their pedestrian contentment of 32 years shielding them from their own stasis.

Claudia’s arrival awakens yearnings in George and the possibility of regret for Honor. The generational differences bring to the surface uncomfortable notions of sacrifice, expectation, obligation and loyalty.

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Staged in the round, the audience surrounds the modestly furnished stage, adorned solely by a few blocks for sitting. Goodman and Brayben have previously won Oliviers, but good as they are they cannot salvage a script that frequently flounders. Paul Robinson’s play flatters to deceive. Some moments deliver clear-eyed, pithy observations that are beautifully profound and insightful. Yet other lines clatter and clang like a tone-deaf operator let loose on a set of timpani.

Engagement dissipates as matters unfold. The characters increasingly betray their own intelligence. George, in particular, is hard to fathom. Iintellectually bright but emotionally stunted, his dispassionately cruel treatment of his wife is hard to take. How is he so devoid of genuine, common compassion and empathy to his partner of many decades? The suddenness of his withdrawal, the volte-face of his conduct brings into question the the authenticity of these characters’ actions/reactions all round. Honour is not entirely floored by its mis-steps, but the mis-steps strongly dilute its overall potency.