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by Anthony Neilson

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Tebut Isfar

ta ' Clare Azzopardi





True Love Lies



Author:   Brad Fraser

Director:   Toni Attard

Venue:   St James Cavalier, Valletta

Dates: 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31 October, 1, 2 November 2014

Cast:   Ray Calleja, Jes Camilleri, Pia Zammit, Bettina Paris, Joe Azzopardi

Summary:   Madison is looking for a job. She applies for a position in a restaurant only to discover that the owner, David, was in a sexual relationship with her father when the two men were younger.

Sparking a series of further revelations, the sudden reappearance of David exposes suppressed emotions and desires in everyone and the family must renegotiate their relationships with each other and, ultimately, redefine their family. In sharp, non-stop dialogue, Brad Fraser brings each of his characters to life with a depth, humour, and emotion that tears open the nuclear family and finds the heart that is often lost and forgotten. 



What the papers said:

True Love Lies.  Theatre Review

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10

The family unit, the last great bastion of civilisation or so they say but when a family is torn apart by uncovered secrets from the past, when the lies, which were told in order to protect at the time, become the pivotal point of damning collision it is no wonder that the family can be seen as dysfunctional.

In Brad Fraser’s touchingly explosive play True Love Lies, the potential for an atomic explosion to deliver fallout on the type of scale that would have Geiger counters going berserk as the radiation came pouring out was ever present in the air as the audience at the St. James Cavalier Castile Place in Valetta were given a first-hand demonstration on how the Nuclear family is just as unstable as any other type of relationship.

Any relationship can be toxic, from a friend who gets a handshake thrown back in their face to a disagreement which has blown out of control but tellingly it is the family unit which can unravel quickest as Brad Fraser’s script shows with a perfect elegance and rapid fire delivery which was beautifully presented by the five actors on stage.

From the very enjoyable performances of Ray Calleja, Jes Camilleri and Pia Zammit to the fiery brilliance supplied by the marvellous Bettina Paris as Madison and the untameable wonder of Joe Azzopardi who captured the hearts of the audience as he portrayed with excellent acting agility the slow disintegration of a mind in turmoil as the fall-out from a secret revealed prepares to take all who know down to a place in which they might never truly recover. From a different perspective the same could be said of Bettina Paris, instead of slowly breaking down though, the young actor showed that mental toughness and unchecked rebellion can be just as damaging, just as destructive, especially when in  the hands of someone who can cause as much havoc as a hurricane hitting the mid-Atlantic in storm season. For this Bettina Paris was a captivating find.

With a set that cleverly captured the two separate lives and what could have been either way, the cast and crew of True Love Lies gave the theatrical taste-buds of the entire audience the salivating joy of a well prepared and sumptuous performance. A great gift of theatre presentation in the hands of a company that cares very deeply about the message they are sending out.

Ian D. Hall - Liverpool Sound and Vision, 19/10/14

Unifaun explores what it takes to keep love afloat in a world of blurred lines

 Sex, lies and domesticity

Sexual politics have always been complicated and, until recently, this complexity used to be kept under rigidly-tight wraps: avoiding uncomfortable conflict and confrontation in favour of a perfect façade.

The contemporary scene, however, has brought with it a different way of viewing things and has a habit of unearthing past mischief which would have been better off buried… or so one could think.

Brad Fraser’s excellent play, True Love Lies, explores just this: the love, romantic and otherwise, which one person can have for another, beyond sexual orientation and the constructs of family ties.

Unifaun Theatre’s production of Fraser’s work, whose witty and equally poignant script provided the cast with some very powerful core material, is currently running at St James Cavalier until early November; and is not to be missed.

Fraser’s weighted silences, rising tension and awkward one-liners are interspersed with dry humour and witty observations about love and life which draw the audience into the characters’ world effortlessly because of their organic development.

Director Toni Attard put together a great cast: wisely choosing actors whose vocal control and stage dynamic helped create a seamless, fast-paced peace which was quietly reflective in all the right places.

His choice of staging and sensitivity to the text made the most of both the script and the performers’ abilities, while Romualdo Moretti’s clean and modern set design and Chris Gatt’s lighting design helped to make the piece more cohesive.

It was, however, the acting itself which made the play the highly watchable and powerful piece it was.

A very controlled, if at times soft-spoken, Jes Camilleri played Kane, the loyal and loving family man married to Carolyn (Pia Zammit). Kane and Carolyn’s perfectly constructed family bubble comes crashing down when their daughter Madison (Bettina Paris) meets a prospective employer called David (Ray Calleja) whose path had crossed Kane’s in the distant, murky past.

Camilleri’s portrayal of Kane gave his character equal measures of dignity and honesty, which matched Zammit’s Carolyn’s controlled and nuanced performance, who freely admits to having been the cause of the breakdown in Kane’s past romantic relationship with David. She defines herself as ‘the other woman’ in her husband’s early burgeoning sexual exploration and attempts to navigate this newly-opened can of worms as best she can to help alleviate its impact on their two children – 21-year-old Madison and the teenage Royce (Joe Azzopardi).

Understandably shaken by these revelations about their father’s past sexual proclivities, the two children react very differently to the situation: from Madison’s rebellious nature and her semi-destructive promiscuity, to Royce’s self-esteem and depression brought on by bullying and a sensation of not fitting in.

Paris has been going from strength to strength in her stage work recently and gave a fiery, emotionally charged and mature performance as a confused young adult trying to navigate life beyond the teenage years, while Azzopardi’s stellar performance as Royce had the audience in the palm of his hand.

Royce’s self-deprecating comments and his snarky teenage attitude were captured effortlessly by Azzopardi, whose portrayal of a troubled teen came across as natural and credible – refreshingly unforced.

The family these actors portrayed may have been dysfunctional but their dynamic on stage was spot on.

So too were their encounters with Calleja’s David, whose complex relationship with Carolyn and Kane, his lingering interest in Kane and his self-doubt are counterbalanced by a strength of character and self-discipline which keep him as hard as nails in the face of some of the more disturbing events in the course of the play.

His honesty with the other four characters and the way in which he actually deals with them and their insecurities, made for a difficult but rewarding character to play – which Calleja, who has recently begun to make a stage comeback, managed to interpret incredibly well.

In uncovering past lies, the characters also discover truths about themselves.  Their personal journey is enriched by the knowledge that true love is about individuals finding themselves drawn by other individuals, irrespective of their sexuality – and that sometimes, valuing yourself and your needs before those of your loved ones can make for a better balanced interaction and eventual sense of care towards others.

All this because personal peace and satisfaction are achieved first – making it easier to deal with other people’s emotional baggage and attachment.

True Love Lies certainly achieves this, in no small part thanks to the fine acting all round, making it definitely one of this season’s must-see productions.

Andre Delicata - The Times of Malta, 22/10/14


 True Love Lies by the Candian playwright Brad Fraser (presented by Unifaun at St James Cavalier) is a powerful play that depicts the breakup of a family.  Trouble is caused, initially, by the discovery of a secret kept by Kane and Carolyn, the parents, from their children, Madison (20) and Royce (17) and subsequently of yet another secret, connected with the first one, unknown so far to Carolyn.

Fraser makes the damage to the family likelier by making Madison a sexually adventurous girl who plays a crucial part in what happens. Royce, instead, is an intelligent boy with no self confidence who is mercilessly bullied at school and is more than a little neurotic.

The trouble begins when Madison, who has no intention of getting a college education because she wants to earn money and have as good a time as possible, applies for a job in a restaurant and discovers that David, the restaurateur, who strikes her immediately as being gay, is an old friend of her father’s. At home she and Royce discover that Kane and David had had a serious love affair before Kane’s marriage to Carolyn. This has long been known by Carolyn, who now makes the mistake of agreeing to invite David for dinner.

When, during the meal, Carolyn speaks lightly of the relationship Kane had had with David, the latter gets up in some anger and gets his back on Carolyn by telling Madison she can have the job she wants in his restaurant.

More family drama follows. At one point Carolyn tells her son that while many marriages do not fail, quite a few of them expire, and this is the theme Fraser depicts so strongly.

Romualdo Moretti’s set is minimalist, as Fraser himself prescribes, but it has a certain elegance. The small stage at St James Cavalier constrains a great compactness and the use of the same area for Kane’s dining room area as well as for David’s restaurant.

As no time is lost over scene changes, Toni Attard’s direction keeps the play flowing from place to place, from one often surprising event to the next. The cast of five ranges from excellent to not-less-than-good.

The direction of scenes is gripping, such as when David turns the tables on a threatening Royce, or when Madison proves that gay people can still succumb to the sexual wiles of a determined woman.

Fraser’s play is not a black comedy, but it is a darkish one.  Plenty of smiles and more than a few laughs are provided by the wryly ironic comments of Royce (Joe Azzopardi, who is particularly good as he deteriorates psychologically in the second act) and the worldly-wise retorts born of a long experience of life and business of David (Ray Calleja), the central figure in the plot.

Madison, who says she wants to sleep with every man she meets, until she eventually announces she is going to have a shot at monogamy, produces many a nervous titter from the audience.

As the play develops and unhappy endings start looming for some of the characters, the smiles get rarer and the audience begins to wish that none of the character will face a future of unalloyed unhappiness.

Calleja is a fine David, a gay man who has found real love in the past, lost it and begins to hope he can retrieve it. He is selfpossessed and never at a loss except when, to his great surprise, he is practically raped by a girl, gets to love her and is roused to jealousy by her for a while.  His love for Kane, however, has never died out and much of the play sees him trying to help Kane as he experiences ever growing familial problems.

I should add that Calleja is the only member of the cast who knows that even the casual throwaway lines spoken in real life must always be comprehensible to the audience. An intimate theatre like that at St James Cavalier should not be a temptation to retain certain tones and volumes that work during the rehearsal period.

Bettina Paris, following her very successful Woman in Tender Napalm, has come up with a very striking Madison, a girl of rampant sexuality that may be on the verge of discovering true love.

At the end she times her final departure from the restaurant shortly before the arrival of Kane. Is this her final shot at her mother, whom she hates, as she enables Kane and David, both of them lonely, to have an intimate meeting together?

Jes Camilleri’s Kane is characterised by the frequent hinting of submerged feelings as the past catches up with him, but also by his genuine passion for Carolyn. Pia Zammit’s Carolyn has a number of moments when her facial expression reveals that what she is saying is not what she is feeling. As at the end, she tries to pretend that she looks forward to her new life, we know that this woman is suffering a grievous loss.

Paul Xuereb - The Sunday Times of Malta, 26/10/14

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