StageScan Pick: The Truth

A range of positive pro responses averaging 4 stars, greeted Florian Zeller’s The Truth at Menier Chocolate Factory.

”Like The Father and The Mother,” observed Michael Billington (Guardian), it “plays games with reality”. Andrzej Lukowski (Time Out) praised “a lean, deft piece of writing”, also observing a similar “taut, twisting structure” with “seven rapid-fire scenes, each radically altering our impression of what exactly is going on”. Paul Taylor (Independent) was among several noting “its overt and perhaps excessive indebtedness to Pinter’s Betrayal” but Libby Purves (TheatreCat), one of the five-star reviewers, described ”a punch-in-the-guts, cruelly affectionate, whip-smart ninety-minute treat” which she found “halfway to farce” but without “farce’s crassness”.

Taylor found it “wittily translated” by Christopher Hampton and, like most, enjoyed Lindsay Posner’s “elegantly astringent” production. Billington observed in the design “a chic austerity that seems peculiarly Parisian”.

All agreed with Lukowski that it’s “well-acted”. Purves enjoyed “a particularly fine depiction of alpha-male pride and panic by Alexander Hanson” who “rattles in increasing unease”. Billington hailed “an outstanding performance” which Taylor found “hilariously squirm-making”.

Billington praised “staunch support” from the other three actors. Purves enjoyed Robert Portal’s “unnerving deadpan” and Taylor found him “excellent” as the best friend playing “lethally sly power games” with Hanson’s Michel.

Taylor summed up “a sophisticated dissection of marital hypocrisies and a comic, coolly knowing challenge to the credo that honesty is the best policy”. Billington thought the play “civilised, witty and sophisticated… about the mechanics of adultery, the viral nature of deception and deep-seated male hypocrisy” but found it “slightly airless” failing to “match the pain or passion of Pinter”.

But Lukowski enjoyed a “Tart, zingy and cheerily amoral… satire on the male ego” examining how “lies and denial can form a (not always unhealthy) bedrock to our realities” yet “also very funny and totally unafraid of silliness” and Purves hailed “a virtuoso display of zinging lines” and “laughingly cruel perceptions” nevertheless “never far from… real pain: real love, real betrayal” and judged its blend of comedy and tragedy “very classy”.

StageScan Pick: The Maids

Almost all pro reviewers gave Jamie Lloyd’s new production of Jean Genet’s The Maids at Trafalgar Studios positive reviews, with more than half awarding four stars.

Alice Saville (Time Out)
hailed an “ultra-cool, and deeply nasty… sadomasochistic shocker” and Henry Hitchings (Evening Standard) described a “feverish vision of the desire to shrug off tyranny”.

Michael Coveney (What’s on Stage) felt Genet’s “writing, rather than his scenarios, makes his visions hum” and shared Hitchings’ concerns about “an unsubtle translation” which “robs the play of some of its wit”. Michael Billington (The Guardian) enjoyed “the brutal, coarse, even comic language” but missed “the religious element” in a production “very much about racial and economic servitude”.

Saville, however, praised this “strikingly modern” version, an “intensely stylish tale” set among “the twenty-first-century super-rich”. She described an opening scene in which “two women contorting to synth music in a beam of light” are “showered with drifts of rose petals” with “all the high drama of an Alexander McQueen fashion show”.  Coveney described the stage as “a playground,” less stark than in earlier productions, but concluded “while watching the Trafalgar version, you wouldn’t swap it”, and adding “I love the way we are cast as voyeurs”.

There was general enthusiasm for what Hitchings judged Lloyd’s “bold casting” and three “memorably intense” performances.

Billington found Uzo Aduba’s Solange “lends the play a ferocity I had never quite glimpsed before” describing a “big climactic speech” in which “she unleashes the rage of oppressed people everywhere”. Coveney thought her “tremendous” and Saville praised “an appropriate degree of eye-rolling sass and blind fury”.

Billington thought Zawe Ashton’s Claire “more sinuously seductive, less openly murderous” and Hitchings saw her switch “from flamboyant escapism to a suffocating anxiety”. Saville found the actor “mesmerising… vulnerable, unpredictable and utterly in control” and said “The text becomes a dressing-up box full of styles for her to try on”.

Coveney thought their Mistress “played, beautifully and hoity-toitily, as a Park Avenue glamour queen, by Laura Carmichael”. Billington described “exactly the right quality of heedless, narcissistic condescension” and Saville saw her switch “effortlessly between patronising kindliness and… sadistic cruelty”.

Hitchings felt “Lloyd’s decision to make this… about racial tensions… smart, and locating the action in America… equally shrewd” but found the result “essentially one-note”.  But Billington hailed “a highly impressive, deeply political production of a lost landmark”.