Oct/Nov 2012

Birthday Honours
by Paul Jones

Directed by
Steve Braham

An echo of a bygone age
Michael Gray

More Reviews

Birthday Honours takes place in the Bestwood’s London home in 1955.

It is thought that Alec Bestwood, a respected consultant surgeon, is to receive a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.  His mother-in-law Mary tells her daughter Monica that she must cease the affair she has been having with Peter Varley, if she is to become Lady Bestwood.  Alec returns early from a business trip and discovers the affair, but surprisingly shows no anger, only relief.

The reason for this soon becomes apparent.

Mary Titheradge arrives to see Alec but is told by his receptionist Elizabeth Wilton that he is in Paris on business.  Mary asks to see her daughter Monica but is told she is out.

Monica's sister Beatrice arrives with a copy of "The Tatler".  It shows a picture of Monica with Peter Varley.  Beatrice explains that they are lovers.  Mary reveals that a friend has told her Alec is to be knighted in the Birthday Honours but is horrified that a scandal could jeopardise his chances.

Alec arrives back early from Paris and Mary tells him the news of his knighthood emphasising her delight that her daughter would now be "Lady Bestwood".

Monica enters glamorously dressed having been out all night at a party.  She is horrified to learn that her husband has returned early.  Mary tells Monica about the knighthood.

Peter Varley enters wearing a dishevelled dinner suit, clearly having come with Monica.  They explain that their car broke down last evening and that they had to spend the night at an hotel, returning this morning by Green-line bus.

Before Peter can beat a hasty retreat, Alec enters and greets Monica and Peter quite affably despite a garbled explanation of the previous nights activities.  Monica is abject and tells Peter to go.  Alec invites him to stay for a drink.

Alec says goodbye to Peter Varley leaving him and Monica to puzzle over what is going on.

Alec explains to Monica that he has known of her affair for ten months and that she had fallen out of love with him three years ago.  Monica feels wretched but Alec tells her that he fell out of love with her two years before that and he is happy for her to have an affair.  Monica explodes in anger.

A few days later, Mary is visiting Monica when Beatrice arrives to see Alec, carrying a parcel.  She is guarded about its contents and leaves quickly.

Peter Varley bursts in telling Monica he had to see her.  He wants her to run away with him to Venice.  She tells him to go.

Alec enters and greets Peter pleasantly.  Peter tells him he is in love with his wife and wants to take her away to Venice.  Alec says it is all right with him and suggests a restaurant to visit.

Later Monica accuses Alec of trying to get rid of her because he is having an affair himself.  She demands to know with whom.  She concludes it must be his receptionist but Alec denies it.

Alec is alone and Beatrice re-enters with her parcel.  After condemning Monica's behaviour she gives him the parcel "with her love".  It contains a sweater she has knitted herself "to cheer him up".

Beatrice says that Monica is a poor wife to him and, describing herself, tells him the sort of wife he needs.  She then throws herself on top of him.  He is startled and Beatrice feels ashamed.

Miss Wilton engineers a ruse to get rid of Beatrice.  When she and Alec are alone, he asks her if she is happy working for him and starts to flirt with her.  He invites her to dinner and she explains she has waited three years for this.

They fall into each other's arms and leave through the consulting room..

Two weeks later and the Birthday Honours have been announced.  Alec's name is not amongst them.  Mary, Monica and Beatrice are all disappointed.  Alec is relieved and revels in their plight.

Monica interrogates Miss Wilton about her life, tells her that she is in love with her husband and that she should look for another job.

Monica tells Alec that there is no room for both her and Miss Wilton in the house.  Alec suggests she leave as good secretaries are hard to get.  Monica accuses him of having an affair with her and precipitates a row over her affair with Peter Varley.

Alec unleashes a tirade of abuse at Mary and her daughters but is interrupted by Peter Varley who has come to say he is leaving to take up farming in the country.

Once alone, Beatrice tells Peter that he needs a farmer's wife and describes all the attributes necessary for one.  Peter asks where such a woman could be found and Beatrice throws herself at him.  They decide to get married and honeymoon in Venice.

Mary tells Beatrice she must have gone mad as no-one could possibly want to marry her.  All the years of being put-down by her mother boil out of Beatrice as she unleashes a stream of invective against her.  She leaves her suggesting she get over it with a large gin.

Alec and Monica try to rebuild their marriage.  She tell him that Varley has gone never to return.  He tells her that he was insanely jealous.  They declare their love for each other, kiss and make up.

As soon as she is alone, Monica calls Peter to tell him all is as it was.  He tells her he is getting married.  She is distraught when she finds out to whom.

Mary and Monica are miserable at the way things have turned out.  To cheer themselves up, they decide to go on holiday to Venice.

Alec calls Miss Wilton in from the consulting room and tells her they have been working much too hard and deserve a holiday.  They decide to go to Venice.



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