We Were Promised Honey! – Soho Theatre, London

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Sam Ward

Additional Director: Atri Banerjee

The end is coming and it’s really bad; this the warning that accompanies Sam Ward’s show We Were Promised Honey! which makes its way from the Edinburgh Fringe to London’s Soho Theatre who co-commissioned this unusual 65-minute interactive monologue. Using its own existence as a placeholder in time, Ward’s vivid examination of storytelling projects into a dismal future where personal success, love or kindness will never be enough to hold back the end of everything. But even if we know the end, do we know when a story begins?

Ward bases his show on three interactive exercises that act as stage gates in the storytelling process, after which there are choices to make. In fact, Ward continually hands decision-making over to the audience to control what happens in the small upstairs space at the top of the Soho Theatre. So, whether you sit in silence for 65-minutes or proceed continually depends on volunteers from the audience calling out or taking part in a series of tasks, but there is no obligation to do so.

Each one links to a story strand that Ward shares with the viewer, all of which have an improbable timescale attached. The first involves a man in the audience 50 years from now helping a stranger around which Ward develops an incredibly vivid tale, weaving improvised details from the volunteer to predict a strange future scenario for a man who may be in his 70s by the time it occurs. Equally odd is the CEO of a household electronics firm giving an inspiring presentation 100 years from now when her speech is interrupted, until finally an on-again-off-again couple from this audience reconvene in 300 years in that same electronics factory to give things another try.

Through these impossible scenes, Ward draws connections between them, bringing characters from one situation into another, referencing the people and things that last for centuries. At the start of each new story, the writer-performer sets the scene, noting the things that will happen to people within minutes of the show ending, months, years and eventually centuries and millennia into the future as civilisation continues and then crumbles.

What inspired these broad reflections? Well, it’s the real story of a man named Richard, a baggage handler who stole and flew an aeroplane in 2018, whose hopeful story with an inevitable conclusion is interspersed throughout the show. We Were Promised Honey! explores the pointless of existence in the broadest, existential sense and the need, like Richard, to live in the moment as a way of finding meaning, self-direction and motivation to keep going.

This is a show that doesn’t necessarily take you anywhere, except through flights of fancy and to a warmer dystopia than a lot of future-focused fiction, but Ward is an engaging storyteller while Carmel Smickersgill’s sound and David Doyle’s lighting help to create enough atmosphere to jolt the imagination. You may know little more at the end of We Were Promised Honey! than you did at the beginning but that’s life, and maybe that is Ward’s final point – that humanity will just go blindly on until it stops.

Runs until 3 December 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Existential emptiness

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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