Are there times when it is better to lie than to tell the truth? Of course there are, lots of them. So let me ask you another one. Are there times when it is better to pretend to know nothing than tell the truth, even if what you know is negatively affecting another person but the truth could potentially have dire consequences? It all becomes a bit trickier now doesn’t it? Welcome to The Truth by French playwright Florian Zeller at Wyndham’s Theatre.
In a Parisian hotel, Alice (Frances O’Connor) and Michel (Alexander Hanson) are having sex. There is a bit of urgency to their lovemaking as Michel is meant to be back in his office for an important meeting. Once they have finished, Michel starts getting dressed and the two of them chat about Alice’s husband Paul (Robert Portal) who is Michel’s best friend. Whilst Michel and Alice realise what they are doing might not be considered right- particularly by their spouses, Paul and Michel’s wife Laurence (Tanya Franks) they are fairly happy with the way things are going, though Alice would like to spend at least one night with her lover. However, Michel wants them to continue to play things cool – with no guilt – so that neither Paul nor Laurence find out the truth. Later, after a tennis match- where Michel lets Paul win – the two chaps discuss their lives over a drink back at Paul and Alice’s house. At this point, Paul reveals his secrets to a very surprised Michel, who goes off to discuss things with his own wife Laurence. But in this lovely world of cat and mouse, it has to be worked out who exactly is playing with whom and if truth is stranger than fiction then fiction can be more disconcerting than truth.
The Truth is yet another West End Transfer from the Menier Chocolate Factory and will definitely enhance that small theatre’s reputation for finding outstanding plays. At ninety minutes long, this one act play is simply superb from start to finish. It was strange how quickly I realised how fantastic certain elements were. For example my initial thoughts on Lizzie Clachan’s very white set was that it was dull and bland, but as walls, windows and curtains moved about to create the various locations, I realised that it was a masterpiece of set design, always portraying the setting but never taking any interest away from the actors or the story. And the actors really were fantastic. The two ladies portrayed very sensible middle-class ladies dealing with difficult situations in a restrained and non-emotional way, while the two gentlemen played their characters so perfectly you would think the writer had got these actors in mind when penning this piece. In particular, Alexander Hanson is simply magnificent. Michel is not really very bright, does a lot of things badly out of good intentions and at times really has his priorities completely muddled up. He is surprisingly moral at times and could be a complete swine in the Terry Thomas type but somehow Alexander pulls off the trick of making you like him and even feeling sorry for him as his misguided focus causes him to say some really stupid things.
Lindsay Posner’s direction is spot on, keeping the pace fast but not too frantic and definitely making fantastic use of his actors abilities and the lovely set design. And although the original play was in French, Florian Zeller’s story translates very well into English, reminding me at times of movies like “Brief Encounter” where everybody is trying frightfully hard to do the right thing and the sentences are short but still manage to convey an awful lot despite the economy with actual words. But, overall I really loved The Truth. It was laugh-out-loud hilarious at times and yet had a lovely poignant to Michel’s story that I couldn’t help feeling a little emotional for the chap by the end.
My recommendation then is, if you fancy a really entertaining ninety minutes then forget the football, get yourself to the West End and go see this marvelous show, and that my friends is The Truth.
Review by Terry Eastham
Following last year’s phenomenal success of The Father by Florian Zeller (Theatre Royal Bath, Tricycle, Wyndham’s and Duke of York’s from February), the Chocolate Factory in association with Theatre Royal Bath is delighted to present the UK premiere of Zeller’s biting new play The Truth.
French novelist and playwright Zeller has been awarded the prestigious Prix Interallié (for his novel The Fascination of Evil) and two Molière awards for his plays The Father and The Mother. This is the English language premiere of a new version of The Truth by Christopher Hampton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) and is directed by Lindsay Posner (Abigail’s Party, Communicating Doors and Dinner With Saddam).
32-36 Charing Cross Road
London, WC2H 0DA
Booking to 3rd September 2016