REVIEW: THE TRUTH (Menier Chocolate Factory)

The Truth

This is the third play by celebrated French playwright Florian Zeller to be staged in London after the critically acclaimed The Father, which will soon be returning to the West End, and The Mother, which recently had a sold out run at the Tricycle Theatre. Translated by Christopher Hampton, The Truth is the companion piece to The Lie, featuring the same characters, which should make its journey to London soon. Zeller admits that he was inspired by Harold Pinter’s classic play Betrayal when writing The Truth and the similarities are indeed striking.

Michel and Alice are having an affair. When the performance begins they are still in bed, coming to a pleasing finale. Both are cheating on their spouses and Michel is sleeping with his best friend’s wife. Once done, Michel quickly gets dressed to leave for a meeting. Alice is disenchanted with his behaviour and threatens to end their affair unless Michel spends more time with her. She suggests a romantic weekend together. Michel is not so inclined because it means extra trouble: “We are both married – especially you.” In the end he relents and even cancels his important meeting, with unforeseen consequences.

Florian Zeller has created a farcical variation of Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal. Fast-paced and with excellent comic timing, Lindsay Posner’s production draws a portrait of a dishonest and hypocritical society. Although Michel deplores the inhumane treatment that his best friend Paul suffered at the hands of his former employer, he has no problems betraying him in the worst possible way. When Alice, feeling guilty, argues that Paul deserves to know the truth, Michel chides her for being cruel. After all, their lies “protect” Paul. In Michel’s universe telling the truth would lead to the end of civilisation. Michel wriggles his way out of any situation, coming up with the most creative and outlandish excuses or simply following the slogan that offence is the best defence, skilfully shifting the blame on his attacker. Yet are the other characters more truthful?

Masterly constructed, witty and intelligent, The Truth keeps the audience guessing as Zeller adds twist after twist after twist in his hilarious comedy. Yet The Truth is not a mere farce, Zeller also discusses philosophical issues and the meaning of friendship. At one point Paul tells Michel about meeting a long-time friend, who he had not seen for many years, only to find that they had nothing in common any more. Paul describes him as one of those people who are “dying long before they actually die.”

The play focuses on Michel, an outstanding performance by Alexander Hanson, but Frances O’Connor adds esprit and sensitivity to the production as the guilt-ridden Alice, Tanya Franks and Robert Portal convince as the betrayed spouses Laurence and Paul.

Reviewed by: Carolin Kopplin
Photo: Marc Brenner

The Truth is playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 7 May. Click here for tickets

Running time: 90 minutes without an interval