Thursday, July 12, 2007

REVIEW: Honour (Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin)

Only the young middle class think that ordinariness is the greatest terror, according to one character in Joanna Murray Smith's entirely non-bizarre love triangle, Honour. But perhaps this show also might be a little frightened of its middling status, as a middling production of a middling play about middle class characters who behave neither too appallingly to be tolerated, nor well enough to be exemplary. With that kind of balance, it is hardly surprising that excitement is a little lacking.

A confident young journalist, Claudia (typically grating, Fiona O'Shaughnessy) has come to interview George (slightly fuzzy, David Horovitch) a celebrated old journalist. Something passes between them – you might call it a spark, but the word somehow seems wrong here. Far too flashy.

Before you can say 'stupid old goat' George has left his wife of 32 years, Honour (Barbara Brennan) and shacked up with the woman, who is, we discover, only a few years older than his daughter (Marcella Plunkett).

The action happens in short, staccato scenes that zip tidily through the action, pausing for breath every now and then at a crucial meeting between two of the characters. But somehow, the speediness of it all seems designed only to distract us from the sensation that we are moving rather slowly through some very familiar scenery.

Murray-Smith's script contains some nice writing, but relies heavily on unfinished sentences and overlapping dialogue in a manner that brings to mind Harold Pinter at his most testing. It is a style of writing that requires precision from its performers, who must work out some way to let the audience hear the words that are never spoken. The knack, the skill, or perhaps just the inclination is missing here. The energy of the script slips away regularly in a fuzz of mistimed contributions.

Claire Lovett's production (for B*spoke) also has some problems that did not arrive embedded in Murray Smith's demanding script. Somehow, Honour never becomes the tag-team sport it needs to be. Barbara Brennan has the best hit ratio – and perhaps, not coincidentally, the best lines. Her cracks at her straying husband always arrive on time, even if their target never seems to feel much more than a mild sting.

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