Review: Accolade, St James Theatre

“Everybody has one vice…”

An interesting choice of revival rounded off the One Stage season for emerging producers that has been taking place at the St James Theatre in Emlyn Williams’ Accolade. Previously seen at the Finborough back in early 2011, it won awards and critical acclaim as it formed part of Blanche McIntyre’s rise to one of the most eagerly watched directors working in British theatre and so despite the delay, it does seem like an astute decision from producer Nicola Seed to nurture this back onto the stage.

And something I hadn’t appreciated was how different it would feel in both a post-Leveson and post-Yewtree world. Will Trenting’s huge success as a novelist has seen him be awarded a knighthood despite the salacious nature of his fiction but the night before he is due to receive it, secrets and scandals come creeping out of the woodwork. For Trenting has taken the maxim ‘write of which you know’ most seriously and enjoys a regular dose of orgies in Rotherhithe on the side of his otherwise happy family life and a participant at one of them is discovered to have been underage.

My original review can read here and much still stands true now, if not even more so. McIntyre draws out the contemporary resonances in a society that revels in celebrity gossip and the dismantling of reputations, however they’ve been earned, and the hypocrisy endemic in its higher echelons. And she also lets us make the connections about Williams’ intentions in writing the play, the appeal for tolerance of alternative lifestyles is impassioned but not overstated, even as he suggests that it is possibly a necessary part of any creative spirit.

Alexander Hanson and Abigail Cruttenden embody this tension beautifully as Trenting and his wife Rona – Hanson is marvellously, unapologetically frank about his predilections and persuasions whilst Cruttenden’s quietly affecting devotion speaks of the deep connection between the pair that transcends conventional notions of marital fidelity and there’s great support all around them, not least from Sam Clemmett as their son. The slightly depressing treatment of the underage girl strikes the only bum note, popular ideas of consent and victimhood as problematic then as they ever have been now.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 13th December

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