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Relevant Revival of Emlyn Williams’ ‘Accolade’

Director Sean Mathias’ decision to resurrect 1950s play ‘Accolade’ by Emlyn

Williams demands nuanced performances across the board to successfully deliver

its complex themes of underage sex, double lives lived, blackmail, deception and

entitlement of the British class system.


It also requires the audience to sit through just under three hours of theatre with a

single set and much onstage drink pouring.


To deliver this razor-sharp script with its eternally relevant themes the cast must

deliver voice projection, pace and passion.


Taking on that challenge, in the role of the societally enabled and about-to-be-

enobled author Will Trenting, is Emmerdale and Hollyoaks actor Ayden Callaghan.

On the eve of his knighthood for services to literature (to complement his Nobel

Prize), Trenting is confronted by the father of a 14-year old girl he has unwittingly

seduced at a Rotherhithe orgy.


Trenting’s double life, led between elegant Regent’s Park residence and his

Rotherhithe bedsit close to south London brothels, has fuelled his literary success,

and comes as no surprise to his accommodating wife Rona (Honeysuckle Weeks)

and publisher Thane (David Phelan).


But a misjudged liaison with a young schoolgirl he thought to be older brings a

scheming father, paparazzi and peer group judgement direct to his door (and a stone

through his window) on the night before his knighthood.


Callaghan brings a strong physical stage presence, also evident in his last role,

touring as Frank Farmer in The Bodyguard, but it is only when Gavin Fowler as

Harold and Sarah Twomey as Phyllis, fellow ‘party-goers’ and Jamie Hogarth as

manservant Albert join him on stage that the energy levels rise and the resonant

script truly comes to life.


‘Accolade’ raises salient question after question for the 2024 audience, with a

prescient script from a bisexual playwright with a forensic interest in crime and

criminal behaviour, including the Moors Murderers and Dr Crippen.


“We all have one thing we’re ashamed of. All of those out there have. Even the judge

has, who’ll be peering at you over his glasses, making you feel like dirt,” Trenting’s

publisher pontificates.


It’s a fascinating exposition, when juxtaposed with Trenting’s young son is faced with his father’s deeds and his own concept of shame. Revivals like this remind us of how far we’ve come as ‘civilised’ people – and how far we’ve still got to go.


Accolade runs at Theatre Royal, Windsor, until June 15, with an Audio Described performance at 2.30pm on June 13, followed by tour dates at;

·       Cambridge Arts Theatre. June 18, 2024 - June 22, 2024,

·       Guildford Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. June 25, 2024 - June 29, 2024,

·       Bath Theatre Royal. July 2, 2024 - July 6, 2024,

·       London Richmond Theatre. July 9, 2024 - July 13, 2024,

Photo Credit: Jack Merriman



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