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Lie Low – Royal Court | Review

“You know, I think you might be bipolar,” muses Dr Houlihan (Rory Nolan), attempting to diagnose his patient, Faye (Charlotte McCurry), though Faye has reason to dispute the doctor’s analysis, with some justification. If the scene is meant to be serious, it’s quite an indictment on the Irish health system (the show is, according to the playtext, “set somewhere in Ireland”), asserting that doctors are seeking a quick diagnosis for patients without carrying out a sufficient number of tests. If it’s meant to be funny, well, it just isn’t.

Charlotte McCurry and Thomas Finnegan in Lie Low at Royal Court Theatre. Photo credit: Ciaran Bagnall.
Charlotte McCurry and Thomas Finnegan in Lie Low at Royal Court Theatre. Photo credit: Ciaran Bagnall.

At face value, the play comes across as rather regressive – Faye is portrayed as someone whose recollection of previous disturbing events can’t be relied upon. Her brother Naoise (pronounced Nisha) (Thomas Finnegan) is called on to help with a type of exposure therapy, which – rightly or wrongly – involves a re-enactment of the burglary that has led to Faye being traumatised. The ethics of such a strategy are neither here nor there anymore, as Faye is desperate to try anything to cure her weeks-long insomnia.

The narrative gradually dissolves into the realms of the absurd. Who does Faye consider Naoise to be? One moment he’s helping her get better, the next he’s a horrid monster who deserves the harshest penalties that can be applied following a pending investigation into a workplace grievance filed against him. Naoise turns the tables on Faye, and what should have been forgotten childhood incidents resurface. McCurry’s Faye is sufficiently convincing in portraying a very wide range of human emotions.

There are dancing routines performed with a duck mask, which were mildly entertaining, but ultimately, the play attempts to find the humour in subjects that are very unamusing. Faye’s characterisation as a neurotic and unhinged individual does nothing to change an outmoded narrative, still present even in contemporary society, in which women’s testimonies of abusive behaviour shouldn’t be taken seriously. Frankly, it’s all a bit patronising.

The final scene (there are apparently seven, although the text jumps from the fourth to the sixth with no mention of why the fifth was dispensed with in its entirety) comes across as being tacked on as an afterthought. The conclusion might satisfy those who crave a happy ending, but it felt rather unearned and unconvincing. As a whole, the play is performed well, and it’s never a bad thing when the seventy-minute running time feels more like fifty. That said, the talking therapy at the end might have proved better comedy material if it were given more prominence and explored the fallacy of Faye and her (new) doctor putting a overly positive spin on practically everything instead of being more pragmatic.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Faye Charlotte McCurry
Naoise/Duck Man Thomas Finnegan
Doctors VO Rory Nolan

Writer and Co-Producer Ciara Elizabeth Smyth
Director Oisín Kearney
Producer Una Nic Eoin
Set & Lighting Designer Ciaran Bagnall
Sound Designer Denis Clohessy
Fight Director Philip Rafferty
Movement Director Paula O’Reilly
Associate Producer/ Production Manager Ronan McManus
Stage Manager Ciara McCarthy – Nolan

“I was broken into a year ago and I was struggling for a bit afterwards. I’m fine now though.”

In the wake of a home invasion, Faye can’t sleep. She’s fine though.

All she’s had to eat this week is a box of dry Rice Krispies. She’s fine though, really – she is…

Desperate to shake her insomnia, Faye enlists the help of her brother, Naoise, to try a form of exposure therapy. But Naoise has a devastating secret that’s about to come to light.

Lie Low is a dark new play from writer Ciara Elizabeth Smyth (Sauce) and director Oisín Kearney (My Left Nut), about fear, trauma and family. It offers a theatrical exploration into the human brain and its response to sexual assault.

Wednesday 22 May to Saturday 08 June 2024
Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs


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