Honeymoon Suite

Richard Bean
English Touring Theatre
Royal Court Theatre Downstairs
(2004)

The prolific Richard Bean has no sooner seen The God Botherers close after a successful run at the Bush than this play opens at the Royal Court.

Honeymoon Suite gives its audience three snapshots of a married couple. We first meet Eddie and Irene as newly married 18 year olds in the mid-1950s. They reappear in the same room to celebrate their Silver Wedding and then to part forever, another twenty-odd years on.

What makes the play different is that the three periods are interwoven with great skill so that they do not so much talk to each other as scream. The ghostly way in which the characters haunt themselves and each other and the clever time games bring to mind another Yorkshireman, J.B.Priestley.

Like the playwright and some of his previous inventions, the couple originate amongst the fisherfolk of Hull. Eddie has ambition but only to make a good life for his love. Irene is made of different stuff and yearns for a life of the mind and independence.

One generation down, Eddie has become the tubby "Tits" who is about to get rich overnight. Irene is "Izzy" and bored.

By the time that they are 67, roles have swapped. She is a baroness with more than a passing resemblance to Mo Mowlem, while he is a failed hotelier and long distance swimmer but apparently more accepting of his lot.

The structure and interaction between the generations allows Bean to analyse the pair's characters in a way more common to novelists. As a result the play and the couple, whose lives are often seen in elemental terms, remain in the watcher's mind long after leaving the theatre. As one has come to expect from Bean, the jokes are very funny too.

Director Paul Miller does a good job with the ghostly interaction between cast members. Pauline Yates, in particular, and John Alderton are very good as the oldies, as is Liam Garrigan as the sexually frustrated, honeymooning Eddie.

Honeymoon Suite does not have the fireworks of The God Botherers. It is deeper and more reflective, a little like a piece of music with odd slow movements and a calm, (if incendiary) climax. It does though have an ultimately satisfying completeness. This is because Richard Bean manages real consistency of character throughout his depiction of the three ages of man and woman.

This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version

Philip Fisher