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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
The Lying Kind
by Lizzie Loveridge

Blunt: Look all I'm saying is that fifty isn't what it was. Fifty's just middle-aged now. Fifty - is what forty was, ten years ago.
Gobbel: What, thirty?
The Lying Kind Thomas Fisher Darrell D'Silva and Sheila Burrell. (Photo: Gautier Deblonde )
The theme of Anthony Neilson's new play, a farcical comedy, is the tangled web of deceit. This is a bit of a departure for both the Court and Neilson, whose other plays have been as much black as comedy and who was nominated for, but did not win the Evening Standard award as Most Promising Playwright for his recent play Stitching. His 1997 play The Censor won the Time Out and Writers' Guild awards for Best Fringe Play. The play does have an unpleasant edge which raises it above most of the other Christmas seasonal theatre fare.

The deceivers in this instance are two inept police constables, Blunt (Darrell D'Silva) and Gobbel (Thomas Fisher), who are charged with delivering to the elderly couple at Number 58 the news of the death of their daughter Carol on Christmas Eve in a motorway accident. An initial misunderstanding leads to the couple thinking they have come to report the death of their dog Miffy rather than their daughter and the father's (Patrick Godfrey) heart condition deters them from correcting the situation. Throw into the mix an aggressive, ball breaking paedophile huntress Gronya (Alison Newman) and a vicar (Matthew Pidgeon) who is wearing a red basque, suspenders and fishnets under his grey suit and dog collar, and a small chihuahua you have the ingredients for a merry dance. I should also mention that the old lady, Garson (Sheila Burrell) is completely certifiably "bananas" and leads the constables in role play exercises whereby they are cast as Captain and Viceroy on a cruise liner sometime in her flirtatious youth.

I laughed and laughed at the antics of the cerebrally challenged Gobbel and his not-quite-so-stupid mentor, Blunt. I shivered at the ruthlessness of Gronya's approach in leaving no stone unturned to root out child molesters and squeezing delicate areas of the male anatomy of our boys in blue. She is the kind of woman who can stub her cheroot out in the bare palm of her hand. Scary! Even the ring tone on her cell phone is Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries. I shall always chuckle at the memory of Gobbel's face when Carol's father tells him that she had "bad teeth, long, very prominent teats, patchy hair down below which smells a bit mangy". Balthasar's mirthful litany of untimely deaths of Garson's relatives is a wonderful speech, from Fenella's malaria, through Martha's going over a cliff in her caravan, to her best friend's fatal jelly fish sting and many more such morbid calamities is worth the price of a ticket alone. Convinced that they are protecting a paedophile, Gronya is offered the explanation that the policemen and the vicar are in fact from a Strippogram company. She forces them to prove it by performing a reluctant strip to the only available music, a tape of "The Windmills of Your Mind".

There are good performances all round from Tom Fisher's nervous and stiff rookie clutching at his jumper sleeves to cover his hands, Darrell d'Silva's perfectly timed straight man to Sheila Burrell's barmy and unsteady old woman in her many wigs. Patrick Godfrey as Balthasar is a seasoned trooper with great style, especially when he has another of his frequent heart-stopping attacks.

The designer has inserted some nice detail into the Conner's living room -- lots of hippie souvenirs, old play bills and a collage of the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp as well as the usual Christmas kitsch and a big banner welcoming home their daughter. I am not sure about the trend for writers to direct their own work. It seems to negate a director's special skills but countering my argument is the record of authors as directors, like Pinter and Ayckbourn. It is an issue worthy of serious debate. There are undoubtedly places where a judicious director might have cut The Lying Kind which would have benefited the pace, including the overly long first scene on the doorstep of Number 58.

Not for the squeamish, The Lying Kind is a Christmas diversion worthy of the Royal Court. It's good to laugh.

The Lying Kind
Written and directed by Anthony Neilson

With: Thomas Fisher, Darrell D'Silva, Patrick Godfrey, Sheila Burrell, Alison Newman, Kellie Shirley, Matthew Pidgeon
Designer: Bob Bailey
Lighting Designer: Chahine Yavroyan
Sound Design: Neil Alexander
Running time: One hour forty five minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking to 11th January 2003
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 29th November 2002 performance at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, The Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1 (Tube Station: Sloane Square)
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