Roger Gallert’s Quaint Honour first debuted in 1958 just under a decade before the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain. Christian Durham’s revival of this often obvious coming of age play fits well with celebratory events marking the 50 year anniversary since the act was passed in government. Sexual frustration and manipulation haunts the dormitories at a revered all-boys boarding school. Head of House, ‘Park’, (Oliver Gully) a 17-year-old moralist-Christian, has suspicions about the sexual deviation arising in the aptly named Cock House in which he is head Prefect. As a troubled Christian, Park confiDes in the understanding and composed headteacher ‘Hallowes’ played with a perfect clipped foppishness by Simon Butteriss.
Park’s intentions to stomp out the immoral behaviour are thwarted by peer ‘Tully’ (Harley Viveash) who covertly parades himself as an unchaste libertine amongst the younger pupils. Viveash commands this role with a sinister cruelty, playing his sexual relationship with 15-year-old ‘Turner’ (Jaques Miche) with smutty calculation. Although the churlish Turner gives as good as he gets, relishing in the thought of his master bedding the dreary ‘Hamilton’ (Jack Archer). The tension between the boys plays out sluggishly at times, though Durham’s direction stirs with a toxic sexuality. Flirting between the boundaries of sexual awakening and sexual manipulation, Quaint Honour taps into the troubled psyche of any boy exploring themselves beyond the confines of heterosexuality.
Tim McQuillen-Wright’s stage design fits snuggly into the intimate Finborough Theatre capturing the hallowed beauty of a 1950s boarding school. The set and costume accent the period well, matching the crisp RP sported by the cast and the ostentatious language of the script. It bears the question as to what purpose this play has to modern gay culture? Sexual exploration will always culminate in complex power dynamics, but the datedness of script lacks gutsy vigour. 50 years ago this script might have been a powerhouse that questioned the politics around same-sex relationships, but this production does little more than rehash bygone years. - Niall Hunt