Writer’s Note: Joanna Murray-Smith, HONOUR

1 Apr 2021

There’s nothing original about the skeleton of HONOUR, the play. The story of the man who leaves his wife for a younger woman is well worn. My ambition was to tell a familiar story in an unfamiliar way: through the prism of all four characters at its heart and with a particular tilt towards the wife. I grew up in a household of teachers, educators, intellectuals… and I observed that many of my parents’ male friends, who were in the public eye and immensely lauded, were married to women who were at least as intelligent as they were, but their wives never got any of the public acclaim. Then at the point when the women who had dedicated themselves to their husbands and raising their children should be reaping the rewards of that self-effacement, the husbands would leave them. I was intrigued to know what those ferociously intelligent abandoned women made  of their decision to stand by their husbands and give up their own careers, even if it had been done willingly at the time.

HONOUR is a boxing match of a play, a series of scenes in which different combinations of the four characters grapple with the aftermath of this act of betrayal. All four are struggling with the meaning and stamina of love in all its forms: marital, long-term, new, passionate, parental and so on. The play commences when life throws a grenade into one small world and its inhabitants have to respond in the moment. I hope the audience can identify with the characters on stage and feel their own vulnerability to life’s complexities.  Part of the success of the play — one of my first and probably my most successful — is that no one is all good or all bad. We struggle and submit to the painful choice, even when we see it happening, because we are compelled by forces greater than our will.

It’s such a pleasure for me to be back at the Ensemble, surely one of the prettiest theatre companies in the world. I have always enjoyed working here and the company has always made artists feel welcome. After the last year, it’s so wonderful to be back on the stage and I’m indebted to the fantastic audiences who continue to support our theatre makers.

Joanna Murray-Smith

Playing 23 Apr – 5 Jun, don’t miss this modern Australian classic.