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REVIEW: Accolade by Emlyn Williams at Cambridge Arts Theatre

This is a slick production, the set and costumes create an atmosphere.

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In the 1950s, every radio play seemed to be about the problems faced by the middle classes. A married couple would hit financial disaster and there would always be the line: “But what about the school fees!” I found this puzzling as a child because I knew you didn’t have to pay to go to school.

Emlyn Williams’s play Accolade, set and written in 1950, is about the problems created for themselves by people who would otherwise lead very comfortable lives.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

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As the play opens, an author (Will Trenting played by Ayden Callaghan) learns he is to be knighted for his services to literature.

His wife, Rona (played with perfect enunciation by Honeysuckle Weeks) is delighted. It’s a wonderful cause for celebration. But we soon learn that Trenting leads a double life.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

She married him, she says, understanding that she would have to share him with his friends from South East London’s Rotherhithe and their wild, debauched parties.

If Noel Coward had written this play, it would have been funnier, and it also would have made the double life one of a gay man in the 1950s – forced on him because he risked going to prison.

That would have given the play real punch and made it much braver. As it is, the leading man has to explain why he has such a compelling passion to have sex with women from the working classes.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

Emlyn Williams was bisexual, and the plot only makes sense if it is a metaphor. Indeed, Trenting tells us that marriage gave him stability, a home, and a family. How else was he going to have this?

Directed by Sean Mathias, this is a slick production, the set and costumes create an atmosphere.

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They draw you into a stuffy, repressed period where the air stank of hypocrisy – but the clothes were marvellous.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

There are some great performances. Honeysuckle Weeks seems to have walked straight out of the 1950s in her voice, demeanour, and attitude. It was a case then we see, of putting up with all kinds of behaviour from one’s husband if you loved him.

To keep up appearances you would defend him to the last, whatever he had done. Her response when he confesses to having sex with a 14-year-old girl is not to leave him – but to get him out of a jam.

Some nice humour comes from Sarah Twomey and Gavin Fowler as the cockney couple who run the illicit parties.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

They don’t engage with the feelings of disgrace and shame felt by the Trentings. If they get sent to prison (again) they will just send their daughter to her granny and keep their chins up serving their time. Perhaps it will only be a month or so.

There are strong performances too from David Phelan as Thane Lampeter, Will Trenting’s upper class publisher, convincing as a retired barrister; Narinder Samra (with some passionate speeches) as the irate father of the underage girl; Louis Holland as the Trentings’ earnest teenage son, Ian; Sarah Crowe as a family friend and Jamie Hogarth as the author’s secretary cum dignified butler Albert.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

Accolade grips your heart and mind, forcing you to examine the fine line between truth and lies. Originally written in the 1950s, Emlyn Williams’ play remains remarkably relevant nearly 75 years after its debut. Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

An interesting piece of theatrical history.

Accolade at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday June 22.

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