Review – Honest, The Mail Coach pub, Derngate, Northampton, Saturday 27th February.

HonestA young man, Dave – a bit like you or me (perhaps a bit younger than me!) – finished work, in the pub, downing a pint, possibly not his first of the evening, probably not his last of the evening, reflects on his work – he’s not happy there. He’s obviously got a lot to get off his chest; and the trouble is, he finds it very difficult not to be totally honest.

That can get you into all sorts of problems, when you’re talking to a boss you don’t respect; a colleague you despise; even your nephew who can’t draw for toffee. Still, during the course of one significant evening that he recollects, he learns how to tell a lie – and I *think* he feels the better for it, even if the person he tells it to also finds it difficult not to be honest. And at the end of the evening, he’s off, no goodbyes, into the night. He doesn’t know how we have reacted to him.

This young man has many layers of anxiety. He always notices anything that’s different from him. So he will always mention if one of the characters he’s talking about is black, or Muslim, say; I don’t think he’s in any way prejudiced, I just think he’s caught up with the minutiae of anything that’s not him. He’s definitely not a mixer, much more of a loner; socially rather inept, but knowing it – for example, there was a very entertaining segment about whether or not some girl would find his too-much-alcohol-induced vomit a turn on. He has a level of despair about his life that is quite touching. Many times he can’t quite finish his sentences – and it’s not the booze that prevents him, he’s just run out of emotional juice.

He is, however, prejudiced against those he feels have an unfair advantage over him – people with a private education, for example. He has a scene where he imagines a classroom in a public school where the teacher is telling the children that they are the advantaged, the blessed, and that they will rise and shine above all the nonentities who don’t go to a public school. I really wanted to get out of my seat at that point and put him right, as I went to such a school and that was something they would never ever have said!!

Mail Coach DC Moore’s one man 45 minute play is a mini nugget of theatrical tension. Held in the back bar at the Mail Coach pub in Northampton, we other drinkers watch him as his tale unfolds. It’s very conversational. You’re very close, physically, to him, as you would be if you were in a pub listening to a bloke talk. As indeed you are; but it is still a play, which at times can be alarmingly easy to forget. Thus it raises interesting questions about the difference between what is and what seems.

One aspect in which for me it didn’t quite work was that as it was so very very nearly real, I wanted to join in the conversation. Indeed at one point I said out loud “yes…” in response to one of his points, forgetting that it was a play. But the fact that you can’t talk back to him does make it slightly more artifice than reality and slightly one-sided, as he gets to do all the talking.

Thomas Morrison Another aspect is that it was 6.30pm on a Saturday. Our man was I think at about 9.30pm on a weeknight. He’d had a few; we were on our first. There’s an imbalance there; but he talks as though we are his equals in “being out late at the pub” terms. It would have been fascinating if they had been able to do it “twice nightly”, say 6.30 and 9.00 – to see if the 9pm show had a more reckless feel to it. But I digress. Even if it were just an exercise in staging a play in a different environment, it would still work; but moreover it is tightly written, beautifully acted by Thomas Morrison, intimate, sensitive, revelatory, and dare I say it, very honest.