‘I think I may be a bit of a cunt.’
That’s the line the play begins with, punctuated (as if that were necessary) by performer Matt Hyde downing a shot and slamming it on the bar. From that moment, you know this will be an immersive and challenging experience.
In the hands of a less able actor, the play’s sole character, Dave, would be a simply unpleasant character. Hyde manages to ensure that as angry and bitter Dave may become, he is always a character with a moral compass. Whether that be his assiduous maintenance of the truth to an individual feeling remorse for his actions, Dave is too prickly to be deeply liked and too real to be disliked.
When the play opened, I caught sight of Hyde at the bar, slightly dishevelled, nursing a beer, and checking his phone. I didn’t know when he’d arrived. He was just there. This blurring of lines is fundamental to the play as Hyde has Dave do a shot with an audience member and lock eyes with other members of the audience as he delivers diatribes against dishonesty and ignorance. The front bar of Treasury 1860 proves a perfect venue as Dave could easily be a tired, unhappy government worker winding down after work – however no such person would likely be able to hold the audience in rapture like Matt Hyde does.
Across an hour, we witness the breaking down of one man in such a way as to offer insight on the nature of masculinity, alcoholism, mental health, and a host of other crucial subjects. There’s still humour to be had in the play but it feels utterly organic and never just an attempt to lighten the mood. It is just the fact that humour can be found in almost any place and the writing by DC Moore and the acting by Matt Hyde ensure that the play never reaches too far for humour, it is just balanced to perfection.
It may hit a little too close to home for those who have witnessed the terrible toll alcoholism and mental illness can take on a person but even to such people, this play will likely offer some additional insight.
It’s not an easy play but it’s not trying to be – and nor should it. Hyde’s absolute commitment to the role keeps the whole room on edge and hanging on his every word as he sells the experience to perfection. Audience members will almost certainly feel that uncertainty and concern that comes from meeting someone like his character Dave. As Dave orders another shot to hammer home a point or just as he moves from one topic to another, the actor seems gone, replaced by the character.
Uncomfortable in all the right ways, funny in unexpected ways, and fundamentally honest, this play does exactly what it sets out to do.
Words by Liam McNally
Honest is playing at Treasury 1860 February 26-28, and March 2-3. Tickets available here.