Until May 29 at Drama Theatre, SOH.
In Honour, a marriage of 32 years between one-time author Honor (Wendy Hughes) and seasoned journalist George (William Zappa), is torn apart after the intrusion of sexy young media graduate Claudia (Paula Arundell). Looking on sceptically from the sidelines is their daughter Sophie (Yael Stone), who is almost the same age as her father’s new lover.
This production continues what might be a trend in the Sydney Theatre Company’s Opera House programming: like Tom Stoppard’s Travesties and Yazmina Reza’s God of Carnage, Joanna Murray Smith’s play is ostensibly pitch-perfect for a middle-class, middle-aged, well-educated audience (who can knowingly chuckle about references to Derrida and Foucault).
That’s not to say that this play is bland – the writing is elegant and insightful, the narrative is cleverly structured, and it delves into the real pain of a marital breakdown. So real, in fact, that I got the distinct feeling this was too close to the bone for many – the exposition of gender roles (women who sacrifice their careers while men ‘sow their oats’, for example), in particular, elicited bleak chuckles from the audience.
Director Lee Lewis (That Face – Company B) highlights the play’s strengths by paring back the set to a simple geometric structure of beech-wood poles – no distractions obscuring the ideas being explored. At the same time, it somehow evokes two financially comfortable baby-boomers from the intellectual class, with that hint of a retro Danish aesthetic.
At its most interesting, Honour invites us to examine our values around career and relationships, and at an even deeper level, our understanding of love – which is contrasted with passion. Are you really in love with that person, or do you just love how they make you feel? For Claudia, love is the ability to undo the other person – or their inability to cope without you. These ideas are universally interesting, regardless of age or circumstance. That said – while the performances are solid, 90 minutes of people intellectualising their relationships is not everyone’s idea of riveting theatre.