Would you prefer the painful truth or a small white lie? Some people feel comfortable with the idea of being ignorant in exchange for not getting hurt, while others would rather know all the facts, even it meant it could cause them pain. Florian Zeller’s play The Lie gives us a few ideas to chew over when dealing with affairs and infidelity.
Menier Chocolate Factory sees director Lindsay Poser portray a farce as well as a cynical play on an important matter, some may argue. This play may be appealing for those who love BBC’s Doctor Foster: a TV drama about the life of a female doctor following her cheating husband. Yet for Zeller’s short, 90-minute play, there’s no danger to the audience’s sensitive hearts, it’s only these fictional and hard-to-read characters who deal with the crazy emotions.
Real-life husband and wife Alexander Hanson and Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny) present the animated, loud and argumentative couple Paul and Alice who live in a fancy Parisian flat. Before an arranged dinner with friends Michel and Laurence, performed by Tony Gardner and Alexandra Gilbreath, Alice feels uncomfortable having just seen Michel with another woman in the middle of Paris. The question is whether it is her duty to share what she saw with Laurence knowing that it could affect their marriage and make them unhappy? Or whether or not is it a completely private matter that only involves Michel and Laurence? For Alice, she feels compelled towards the truth while Paul feels drawn towards lying.
For such a meaty subject that is worth studying on the stage, this production spends more time on laughing at both sides of the arguments through Alice and Paul’s muddled relationship. The lines are full of laughs and gags to keep optimists happy for the evening, but there are also some frustrating moments. In one scene, you think you’ve understood Alice and Paul, but then before your eyes, you lose them again and feel you can’t trust either of them. The humour and comic value may sit well better in Paris, but for an English audience, it seems very far removed and semi-claustrophobic. Perhaps it would seem better in French where all the excessive shouting and arguing maybe acceptable in Parisian culture. Understandably this may have been a challenging job for translator Christopher Hampton.
No doubt the acting is tenacious and interesting to watch. Bond and Hanson seem unstoppable and thoroughly seem amused by the developments of their own character’s as the show unfolds. Gardner and Gilbreath also give strong performances convincing us they are an innocent and happily married couple when in the second half we see a different marital truth. Sadly this show is sold out and I’ve noticed this is the case for most productions at Menier Chocolate Factory. If you can get a return, I urge you to be cautious. The show is a lot of laughs with accomplished performers, but that is all you will get, and maybe that is enough.