Park Theatre, London – until 24 November 2018
‘There’s no fool like an old fool’ is an adage that sums up much of Honour, now playing at the Park Theatre. The play introduces Henry Goodman and Imogen Stubbs as married couple George and Honour. She is a writer who gave up her career to support their 32-year-old union, while he is a famed intellectual, their lives being such that it is almost as if a slice of Hampstead’s intelligentsia has come rolling down Highgate Hill.
When the much younger Claudia, an aspiring author who’s profiling George for a book that she’s writing, breezes into their lives, his middle-aged mid-life testosterone kicks in and with barely a second thought he succumbs to her attraction, walking out on his wife.
If the narrative wasn’t so ineffably predictable, this might have made for a far more stimulating evening. As it is, as the drama hops from cliché to cliché, the production’s only redeeming feature is Stubbs’ interpretation of a woman in scorned and scorching agony. Hers is a wronged, devoted, heart that bleeds throughout a stunning performance, leaving the audience moved at her pain and cheering her on as faltering, she starts to find a path out of her misery.
Katie Brayben’s triangle-completing Claudia delivers all that the flawed script asks of her – but her encounters with both Honour and Sophie, the couple’s daughter barely a few years her junior, fail to convince. Likewise with Goodman who is forced to wade through interminable melodrama. There is a glimpse of his genius late in act two, after he has been inevitably spurned and rejected by Claudia for a more exciting lover where, Lear-like, he recognises the folly of his deeds. But by then it is too little, too late to redeem an otherwise disappointing turn.