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The Lying Kind


Ram Jam Records

The Lying Kind

The Lying Kind

Ram Jam Records

Reviewed – 1st December 2019



“Purposefully lacking in festive cheer, there is still plenty to cheer for”


Not seen in London since 2002, Anthony Neilson’s “The Lying Kind” has all the ingredients of a perfectly crafted farce, adding in some seasonal flavours of the Nativity that leaves a delicious, yet undetermined taste in your mouth. But with Neilson’s reputation for shocking his audience don’t expect the usual Christmas fare. Yes, it is set on Christmas Eve, and even throws in a character called Balthasar (although not quite the wise man here) and a couple of Carols. There any similarity ends as we are taken off on a tangent of cross purposes, cross dressing (and undressing); misunderstanding and murder; dead dogs and dead daughters, paedophile vigilantes and closet queen vicars. Dreaming of a White Christmas? This is as black as you’ll get.

The script promises few tidings of joy, but this production bears them in abundance; led by the team that brought Philip Ridley’s “Radiant Vermin” to the same venue last year. Although only their second production, The Kingston Theatre Company – formed by producer/actress Joy Bowers and director Erica Miller – are proving to be a vital asset to fringe theatre on the outskirts of the capital. For “The Lying Kind”, the small music and cabaret venue has been transformed, by designer Amy Snape, into a shabby but homely living room. Into this drab vision of suburbia enter two inept policemen, Blunt and Gobbel. They dither on the doorstep as they pluck up the courage to tell the elderly couple who live there that their daughter has been killed in a road accident. Before they enter the house, a subplot is set in motion as they are assaulted by an overzealous member of the neighbourhood vigilante group: Parents Against Paedophile Scum, who think they are trying to harbour a child molester.

The bulk of the story is made up of the two officers’ sheer inability to divulge the tragic news to the unsuspecting couple within the house. The rules of farce are strictly adhered to and as confusion builds and logic falls apart with surreal abandon, the twists continue to confound the audience’s self-satisfied belief that they are one step ahead of the characters. Joy Bowers, as Gobbel, gets the performance absolutely spot on. Originally written for a male actor she ingeniously switches the gender and is a guiding star throughout the evening with her deadpan comic timing and self-deprecating mockery of her stooge like character. James Dart relishes his role as the put upon Reverend Shandy, mistaken for a paedophile and – quite literally – forced back into the closet. Erica Miller has taken some bold decisions with the text that Dart is all too happy to take on board.

Miller certainly rises to the challenge of staging an ambitious text. The intricate mechanics required by the script, however, do grind to a halt all too often. The piece relies on all the cogs working in unison. Julia Lacey and Cynon Lewis, who play the bereaved couple Garson and Balthasar respectively, lack the skills required to deliver Neilson’s text. The dialogue is a gift, but they barely take off the wrapper. Even in farce more layers need to be pulled back to reveal the reality of the characters and to make us care for them.

Fortunately, though, the laughs keep us going throughout the evening. Laughs that do paper over the sometimes inconsistent acting. But what they don’t cover up is the underlying adage that it is always better to tell the truth. If you want a quiet life that is: Neilson doesn’t want to get too schmaltzy with his message. So, if you want to avoid the usual Christmas message this year, “The Lying Kind” is well worth travelling afar to catch. Purposefully lacking in festive cheer, there is still plenty to cheer for.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Catherine Harvey


The Lying Kind

Ram Jam Records until 9th December


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Radiant Vermin | ★★★★ | September 2018
Three Shades | ★★★★ | March 2019


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The Seagull – 2.5 Stars


The Seagull

Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Reviewed – 12th June 2018


“basics like vocal projection, coarse acting and stilted pacing let down its avant-garde aspirations”


In ‘The Seagull’, considered the first of his great works, Anton Chekhov was evidently reacting to his publisher’s advice that he should start to put quality above quantity. In the play, Trigorin (Robert Anthony) is also a prolific and successful writer, who embodies Chekhov’s industrious approach, when he says, ‘Day and night I am held in the grip of one besetting thought, to write, write, write!’ Arkadina (played in Alison Steadman style by Ciara Pounchett) is drawn to Trigorin’s fame, clinging not only to him, but to success, money and to maintaining her own youthful image. She visits her brother, Peter Sorin (Monty Lloyd), withering away on his country estate devoid of any such object of desire, to watch Konstantin (Dominic Debartolo), her son from a previous relationship, who attempts and fails to impress her, along with the rest of the gathering, with his own experimental theatre.

Thus, the themes of celebrity, acceptance, rejection, the yearning for love and affirmation become intertwined, and it’s the aspiring actress Nina, who compares these ineluctable forces to the drift of seagulls toward the lake on the estate. Konstantin, frustrated in love and raging at the complacency of the establishment, then shoots the eponymous seabird, ironically handing Trigorin inspiration for yet another book, the plot for which sounds very similar to the one we are watching.

Chekhov’s style is slow, layered, open to parody and fringe productions are not for the risk averse. Folding the country house vistas of Sorin’s estate into a room above a pub is a grim challenge and a ‘sexual, provocative and mind blowing modern interpretation’ is hardly guaranteed to convey the play’s elusive truths. Still, Theatre Collection’s founder Victor Sobchak was imprisoned for six months by the KGB for staging Jesus Christ Superstar in Russia, so is not unfamiliar with courage, or indeed small spaces. The set is accordingly basic, furnished with whatever is available from whatever period. The dialogue is adapted with familiar English idioms, with Sorin declaring himself ‘knackered’ and Konstantin reacting to Nina with ‘my arse’, but Masha and Medvedenko’s relationship (Sadie Pepperrell and Simon D’Aquino) seems diminished played only as bickering antagonists.

There are audacious ideas that work brilliantly, such as the unrequested blow job which both halts Trigorin’s drift towards Nina and clarifies Arkadina’s ruthless control. But Konstantin’s audacious accent did nothing to advance comprehension. Dominic Debartolo looked fine as the rebel creative, with eyeliner and shapeless black coat, but although his atonal cockney may have been intended to remind us of his father’s suspect roots, its random vowels and stresses meant it did so constantly.

There is a wonderful sense of abandon about Victor Sobchak’s back catalogue, with Theatre Collection being his third Anglo Russian theatre company. This collaboration with fellow Director Chris Diacopolous combines adventure and experience, but basics like vocal projection, coarse acting and stilted pacing let down its avant-garde aspirations. That advice about quality and quantity still holds.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Victor Schobak


The Seagull

Lion & Unicorn Theatre until 17th June


Previously reviewed at this venue
Feel | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Feel / More | ★★★★ | March 2018


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