Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Review: Accolade at the St James Theatre

St James Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 17th November 2014

Every family may have their secrets, but as Accolade unravels you can't help but feel better about your own family life. Set in 1950, the play begins with joy as Rona Trenting (Abigail Cruttenden) discovers that her husband Will (Alexander Hanson), a respected author, is to receive a knighthood. But not all is as it seems, Will is living a double life and his marriage is complex. Secrets are exposed, crimes are committed and articles are printed in newspapers leaving the Trenting family unable to hide from society.

It's been far too long since I've seen a play as compelling as Accolade. At first Emlyn Williams carefully lulls his audience into a false sense of security. The piece is jolly and, even when the cracks begin to show, never loses its humour. Act one takes several dips and the build up is a little slow, but all is forgiven when the second half explodes with intensity. After the interval I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat with my hands over my mouth. It is dark and shocking. 

Alexander Hanson and Abigail Cruttenden lead a stellar cast. Blanche McIntyre directs with humanity. The situation is uncomfortably messy. James Cotterill's design wonderfully captures the claustrophobia felt by many of the characters.

Although he looks a little old, Sam Clemmett stands out as Will and Rona's son, Ian. The final scene between Hanson, Cruttenden and Clemmett features some of the most remarkable writing and acting that I have seen for a long time. I noticed several people around me searching their bags for tissues. A mention must also go to Claire Cox who brings an exciting dynamic to the piece, her performance is faultless. 

Accolade is incredibly thought-provoking as you watch it, but what I love is that it makes its mark and then leaves you with plenty more to think about. I am still digesting the piece this morning and imagine it won't leave my mind for days to come.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Accolade runs at the St James Theatre until Saturday 13th December 2014.
Please visit www.stjamestheatre.co.uk for info and tickets.

Photo Credit: Mark Douet 

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