Let’s start with one of the great truths of life. Everyone lies. Yes, it’s true. Your parents lie to you – as do the rest of your family, so do your friends, your colleagues and pretty much everyone you meet everywhere. Even more importantly you lie. Are these first sentences true, or am I lying? Who knows? The line between truth and deceit is really thin, a concept that is taken to an extreme by the Underfoot Theatre Company production of Living Between the Lies at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington.
In a play devised by the cast and directed by Florence Bell the audience gets to meet four different ladies over the course of three stories connected by only the concept of lies. There is Lindsey (Orla Saunders), the ultimate driven businesswoman who sublimates everything in her pursuit of position and power. Unfortunately, despite being a ‘super’ rather than a ‘norm’ , Lindsey lies to herself about what she wants in life and how she is going to get it, so that when it really happens, her world is torn apart. Then there is Alice (Magdalena McNab) – young, pretty and waiting for her boyfriend Harry (Christopher Sherwood) to come home and hopefully surprise her by proposing. However, the surprise Harry has in store for Alice is the type that, he feels, is best delivered by voicemail. Finally Kim (Aleks Grela) has gone to the hospital to get a top-up of her painkiller prescription following an ‘accident’ that left her with a sprained wrist. Whilst waiting,and getting more agitated by the second, Kim calls on the nearest medical professional she sees for assistance. The stethoscope wearing clipboard carrying Laura (Joanne Fitzgerald) that Kim accosts is happy to help, providing that Kim tells her all the details of her accident and life so far. In a sort of quid-pro-quo maneuver, Laura gives Kim details about her own life as a way of getting her to open up about herself and by the end both of them are questioning everything they actually know about the other.
Each story in Living Between the Lies is very different but it is possible as an audience member to identify with at least something in all three of them. The relationship that you keep telling yourself is really going well despite all appearances to the contrary or the conviction you have that you work all hours because you are one of the special, indispensable, members of staff when in reality, the firm doesn’t care and will happily work you until the day you are no longer needed. And the truth that you work so hard to make up for not having anything or, often, anyone else in your life. As Joanne Fitzgerald’s Laura rightly states ‘each night we go to bed and lie to ourselves that tomorrow is going to be better and each morning we tell ourselves the lie that things will get better once we leave the bed.’
I really enjoyed Living Between the Lies both as a piece of theatre and as something to get me thinking. The three stories were pretty realistic and I could definitely identify with parts of them. Whilst I did like and believe in all the characters – even Lindsey who I’m sure her retirement home living mother has trouble loving – but my favourite character was Alice who should have been the one we all felt most sorry for. In some ways we did but, thanks to some great writing and wonderful characterisation by Magdalena, Alice was a wonderful comic character who had the audience laughing heartily, though never really at her. For example, there was a scene in a nursery school where Alice was working that brought back wonderful memories of the late great Joyce Grenfell in its writing and delivery.
So, not the most comfortable hour – it’s not necessarily great to be reminded of the prevalence of lying in our lives – but I enjoyed the writing, direction and acting which delivered some believable characters and situations and left the audience to decide their ultimate fate.
Review by Terry Eastham
Having just returned from a sell-out run at the curated Stockholm Fringe Festival in collaboration with the Swedish National Theatre, this piece has now been chosen from artists from all over the country to perform at the King’s Head Theatre for #Festival45 – New Writing Festival.
Living Between Lies is a one hour tragicomedy about four women living in London who all struggle with loss of control, loss of identity, loneliness and self-deception. The play explores how women in particular cope with these issues – to varying degrees of success.
‘Living Between Lies’ is written and devised by Underfoot Theatre Company and directed by Florence Bell.