“This department is not fit for purpose”
First staged at the Mailcoach pub in Northampton under the aegis of Royal & Derngate, Northampton followed by a highly successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, DC Moore’s 40 minute monologue Honest now arrives in London. As the set-up is simply a man talking in a pub, so this show has actually been playing pubs rather than theatres, in London it has taken up residence in the Queen’s Head near Piccadilly Circus and right next to the Piccadilly Theatre where Grease is currently playing.
Honest starts as Dave takes his seat in the pub alongside us, takes a sip from his half of bitter and starts to talk about the prevalence of lying and deceit in all aspects of modern life, something which irks him something rotten as he’s a guy who believes that honesty is the best policy whether it concerns family, work colleagues or complete strangers. He regales us with amusing razor-sharp anecdotes about the inanities of office life in an obscure government department, full of over-promoted idiots and endless office celebrations and how sickened he is by having become complicit in not telling people what he really thinks of them. But absolute honesty comes at a price and things come to a head, as they are wont to do, at a drunken work night out when he finally snaps and tells his boss exactly what he thinks of him. He then sets off on a booze-fuelled stagger through South London to find his nephew and be faced with some home truths.
This is absolutely stunning stuff: Trystan Gravelle is utterly convincing as Dave with his rumpled-suit, 5 o’clock shadow and piercingly direct style: blessed with a natural raconteur’s gift, it makes Honest completely entrancing, the 40 minutes passed in the blink of an eye and I could easily have sat listening to him for hours. Moore’s writing is frequently so bleak in its outlook and darkly cynical about everything and anything that crosses Dave’s path whether it is a child’s drawing of a tiger, the pervasiveness of meaningless management-speak, work nights out, Australian bar staff, private education, yuppies in Clapham, nothing escapes his withering gaze or even worse in some cases, but it never gets too “Grumpy Old Men” in its misanthropy.
This is largely thanks to Gravelle’s performance which always keeps things on the right side of wry bemusement. Even at its bleakest moments, he employs a lightness of touch which roots Dave as a normal bloke driven a bit mad by things rather than an out-and-out psychopath and keeps him intensely likeable. That said, there was also a neat touch of a copy of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho on the table with Dave’s phone and drink: his distaste for much of 80s pop music and the hints at a casually violent streak feel like they could be distantly descended from the sociopathic Patrick Bateman, yet it is the most subtle of suggestions here.
Moore’s writing is superbly incisive and it rings with a genuine truth, chimes of recognition will come for you whether you live in South London or not, or work in an office or not, the ways in which we bend truth and hide behind obfuscating language is applicable to all. And it is hard to see how it could be better served than by Gravelle’s powerfully convincing performance. In all honesty, you will not find a better way to spend £8.50 this month than here.