As part of its RediscoveriesUK season, the Finborough Theatre’s revival of Emlyn Williams’ Accolade is another successful revitalising of a powerful, lesser-performed play – a fantastic production, excellently realised with a talented cast, beautiful design and elegant direction, with nary a fault to be criticised. This is top notch theatre, remarkable quality on par with some of the best of the West End, and a brilliant choice of play – a must-see and top recommendation.
Emlyn Williams is famous for his deep psychological characters, and Accolade is another great example with it’s leading character William Trenting: a famous novelist, Trenting balances his upper-class life with a sordid interest in slumming it in some of London’s less choice districts – a lifestyle that is brought to light when Trenting is offered a knighthood and the public eye turns to him.
What makes this play work so beautifully is its perfectly poised tact – so many moments that could end in harsh recriminations are treated quietly, urbanely and with a sense of togetherness, of wholeness. What could be a play that teases with its sordid revelations becomes a play about friendship and family – a look into the private lives of the rich and famous that doesn’t end up damning them for their peccadilloes: quite the rarity. Beyond the thematics, this is also a very tight, very classic piece – not a line or word is out of place or overstated, and the witty, pleasant dialogue lends itself well to the more difficult scenes as well as the fair-flowing comic repartee.
Within this pleasing structure, it is especially nice to see such quality acting – Aden Gillett’s Trenting is a wonderful character, both believable as the quiet family man and the boisterous party animal – a difficult line to straddle, and all the better created for it. Saskia Wickham manages well as the understanding wife, as does Patrick Brennan as the suffering agent, but the entire cast truly deserves accolades here – not a weak link in sight.
The complex design and technical set-up also carefully enhance the closeness of the piece without every distracting from it – the lights manage to convey all different times of day and night subtly and effectively, and the sumptuous set works all the better for having an audience on all sides – placing us within the room made us complicit, as good theatre in the round should do. The occasional sound cue was a little invasive (especially in a crowd scene towards the end), but, all in all, this is a very professional set-up.
In short, there is nothing to criticise here, and plenty to delight in – a great play, excellent cast and perfect setting! The play will not be to everyone’s taste – while there is conflict, it is all a little too easily resolved, but this stands at such odds with all of our modern anti-heroes and grim plots that it ends up being pleasantly refreshing. This really is a must-see – I cannot recommend it enough.