Who the hell would want to go to the theatre in
West End? Unless you’re bent on being fleeced, patronized and bored to tears, that is. If you YouTube “The Best Of The Westend Theatre”, the results are horrific. But hold on. There is some surprisingly gripping, funny and original stuff just off the beaten track - in an upstairs room at a pub in Piccadilly for example.
Clocking-in at just under 40 minutes, Honest is advertised as a “playlet” but it’s really just one bloke spinning a yarn over a pint, so it might be more helpful to class it as “Jackanory for grownups”. And that’s a good thing. It covers themes to which most of us in Broken Britain can relate in some way - alienating work and idiot colleagues, frustration at a life not fully lived and escapism through booze and bad behaviour. This is pacey stuff told with plenty of energy and wit.
Dave (an intense and engaging Trystan Gravelle) regales you with his tale while sat at the table next to you. Dressed in a suit, he looks like he’s just left the office. He takes a swig of his drink then begins his story. He works in a pointless Government job and is regularly driven up the wall by his work and his “retard” colleagues and waste-of-space manager, all of whom he can relate to on zero levels. He’s further set apart from them by his cruel dedication to giving it to people straight, telling it like it is, being “Honest”. In a world of half-truths and polite fibs, it’s part of what keeps him almost sane. With his air of superiority, cutting humour and articulate rage he is one part Trainspotting’s Sick Boy, one part Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. And just like in Salinger’s classic novel, there's a sustained atmosphere of tension - something bad is just around the corner.
A punky play that kicks against the pricks, it’s a cathartic experience, both for the character and the audience. It won’t offend you, unless you get hot under the collar at the mention of masturbation or 9/11.
Dave then launches into the retelling of events at a recent works do. There, using truth as a weapon, he drunkenly humiliates his boss, which sparks a walk of shame across South London, accompanied by more drinking and antisocial shenanigans.
It's a very real London. Dave encounters "Byron the alcoholic Rasta midget" at the memorial to Jean Charles De Menezes outside Stockwell Tube Station. Byron is a real person who you may have spotted and maybe even chatted to. He was once a happy character but has now descended into hard times, his slide accelerated by booze. Is this a glimpse of what is in store for Dave? Regardless, our Byronic hero lurches on. Clapham, Battersea and Earlsfield all get dishonorable mentions in these debauched despatches. Thence to Wimbledon Park where Dave finally runs low on energy and morale. By the end, as the sun rises, we hear how this night has crystallised something for him. He may even have woken up to himself. Maybe.
A punky play that kicks against the pricks, it’s a cathartic experience, both for the character and the audience. It won’t offend you, unless you get hot under the collar at the mention of masturbation or 9/11. But it will make you laugh and think. It’s not perfect. Not every gag works. Some lines are crude missiles without much payload. But you’ll be left wanting to hear more from writer D C Moore, honest.
“Honest” and is on at Queens Head, Denman St, Piccadilly until 3 April.
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