Paul Johnson | 09 Sep 2011 16:41pm
Honour tells the rather clichéd story of older man and younger lover, leaving his wife for the new and exciting, who then in turn is dumped. Nothing new? Wrong. The story line may not be new but this production is a bright and brilliant start to 2011 for the GWT. I have been a couple of times before and is tucked away in the midst of a housing estate in the back and beyond of Crayford. There are so many strong qualities of this production it is difficult to know where to begin, but I shall start with a quite simply brilliant set. Designed by the director (Richard Banks) and the leading (only) man, Maurice Tripp, and dressed with realistic and authentic properties by Karen Friett. It beautifully and realistically portrays a comfortable, well lived-in, north London home full of colour, books, stylish furniture pieces and dressed superbly with an immense attention to detail, which commands 2/3rds of the stage. Photos of their daughter’s graduation, favourite photos of the daughter when younger. A family photo, newspaper ephemera and documents on the walls. Contrasting this is Claudia’s stark, modern, virtually monochrome room, lacking the warmth of the older couple’s home, yet also beautifully dressed with black and wooden furniture that squeezes into the remaining third of the stage.The floor a simple brown, yet effective flooring that was flexible enough to be either location, or indeed the coffee house or university as and when demanded to be so.
Everything in the rather grand and comfortable home had an inferior modern duplicate. The attention to detail was rewarding to see as outside the french windows of George and Honor’s home you could glimpse a very realistic wall with a hint of ivy, and outside Claudia’s a rather grotty breeze block wall with a hint of greenery.
This attention to detail is often overlooked in amateur productions. Natalie Walker played the role of Sophie the daughter with a ferocity of anger that resonated around the auditorium. Although her habit of punctuating virtually every sentence or word with accompanying hand gestures grew a little wearing, but the power of her performance was at its highest when confronting her father’s lover and she delivered a heartfelt monologue with power and subtlety. A minor criticism could be that when her most emotional, it was occasionally difficult to hear. Justine Greene portrayed the ambitious Claudia without falling into the pitfalls of being over hard, despite being a marriage wrecker, there is still some sympathy for her as she moves from the cold and calculated through to gaining self awareness and even a sense of guilt. Her final scene when she is cruelly kind to George showed a strength of performance that belies her frail frame. Maurice Tripp as George was superb as the intelligent writer beguiled and flattered by the younger woman’s attentions. The scene where he announces he is leaving his wife was emotionally painful to watch as the articulate George floundered to find the words to explain his actions to his wife. In the second Act there was a lengthy kiss which caused a stir amongst the audience, yet there was no sense of disgust or revulsion. Angie Brignell was quite simply brilliant as Honor. Rarely have I seen such a touching, utterly convincing and moving portrayal. Ms Brignell’s performance must surely have equalled if not surpassed those of the professional actresses, Diana Rigg and Eileen Atkins who both played the same role in the West End. If I can put this any more simply, you won’t find a better performance on the stage all year and we’re only in January!
The character of Honor moves through all the phases of loss, disbelief, shock, anger, acceptance and re-emergence. Such is the clarity of the performance that every intonation and inflection adds pathos and a new level of sympathy and emotion. The script ends with a simple ‘Its..’ begging the ambiguity of ‘Its over!’ or ‘It’s too soon!’ I’m still not sure I am convinced either way. The optomist in me feels, it’s too soon. But perhaps I’m just a romantic at heart. The unseen element of this (and any other) production is the director. Richard Banks must be heartily congratulated for a deft touch and neat avoidance of cliché, emotions regined in, as to be believable, bringing a script to life as to be utterly believable. The programme notes reveal that this is his first production as a director at the GWT, if this piece of work is a sign of his quality as a director, the GWT (and any other theatre) would do well to retain his skills as a director. Let me put this as plain as I can, fight to get a ticket, although there is limited time left to see the show. Sometimes you wish amateur shows would run longer than a week. This is one of those. West End Standard at amateur prices, this is the sort of stuff that is all that is brilliant about local amateur theatre.
- : user
- : 16/01/2011