D C Moore
Royal & Derngate, Northampton in association with Seabright Productions
Soho Theatre at the Queen's Head Pub
Somewhere between a mid life crisis and an existential crash, Dave sits in a pub telling us about himself, his life, his honesty. In a world built on half-truths, he cannot bring himself to lie.
Edging on just the right side of rambling, Dave tells us about his life in the civil service's sick ecosystem, about his work colleagues whom he hates and cannot respect, all with an undercurrent of loathing not just for those around him but also for himself.
Honest is a bitter, nail-bitingly funny monologue of a man on the brink, incredibly satisfying while remaining quietly ambitious. Trystan Gravelle as Dave is not only completely believable and incredibly fluent, giving a perfectly paced account, but attractive and fully exploiting the role's subtleties.
For this is far from a sedate account: Honest gets under your skin so you feel unclean while you laugh.
This is partly because, for all his anger and gruff aggression Dave clearly is vulnerable and afraid, partly because of a well kept balance between the ugliness of Dave's story and how charming he is.
In many ways that Honest feels easy is a sign of its success, but there is always the worry of sacrificing depth for smoothness. Luckily there is bite to the bark here: more than just an extended anecdote, Honest is troubling, troubling that honesty can be such a drawback, troubling that much of what Dave says, while repulsive, hits home.
The rhythm of the night does start to lag towards the end and this is partly because, after the intense beginning, the show mellows to halt. The transition is from an almost rant to a narrative of a drunk Dave wandering across London. Overall this is handled smoothly and ties in with the main character being worn out, but the play also does just lose steam.
Compelling, charming and fluent while making you feel dirty, Honest is perhaps not quite rare, but is certainly successful.
"Honest" is playing at the Queen's Head Pub until the 3rd April
Thois review was delayed because of email problems. Many Apologies!
Reviewer: Tobias Chapple