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The Lying Kind
Author: Anthony Neilson
Director: Chris Gatt
Set Design: Romualdo Moretti
Dates: 21, 22, 23 October 2016
Venue: Sala Sir Temi Zammit, Tal-Qroqq
Cast: Edward Mercieca, Alan Paris, Polly March, Antony Edridge, Magda van Kuilenburg, Thomas Camilleri, Michaela Fenech
Summary: Two police officers have a difficult task at hand. They must inform an elderly couple that their only daughter died in a car accident. However, things get out of hand when the two policemen fear that the news will kill the elderlies . . . so they start lying. Except that each lie leads to a bigger lie. And the presence of a vigilante and a dedicated clergyman makes life no easier . . . not to mention that darned dog . . .
What the Papers said:
Two buddy coppers have one last thing they have to do before going home on Christmas Eve, inform an elderly couple that their daughter has passed away in an unfortunate accident. As distasteful as the thought may be, the task itself is fairly simple, right? Right. Except simple is far from the predicament that our bumbling heroes find themselves in, in Unifaun Theatre’s ‘The Lying Kind’.
Edward Mercieca and Alan Paris as Blunt and Gobbel are less Starsky and Hutch and more Turner and Hooch, as they bumble through the evening trying, and quite hilariously failing, to correct a simple misunderstanding that keeps spiralling wildly beyond either of their control. Mercieca’s Blunt is witty and quick thinking, constantly in a battle to dig them out of the sinking grave that Paris’ innocently foolish Gobbel keeps unwittingly burying them further into. Both masters of their craft, and clearly working from a script that is fast paced and devastatingly funny, Mercieca and Paris carry a snippy yet charming back and forth at several points, their comedic delivery clearly an asset to the dialogue, however their slapstick routines were truly a sight to behold, instigating some truly hysterical comedy; including, but not limited to, a striptease possibly inspired by Weekend at Bernie’s. The pair were delightful and an absolute riot in bringing this hapless duo to life.
Joining the fray is Magda van Kuilenburg as Gronya, a Vicky Pollardesque, self-proclaimed crusader against (dubiously) alleged neighbourhood paedophiles, who always seems to be catching Blunt and Gobbel at the absolute worst possible moment. The amount of times the three of the get swept up in a “this is not what it looks like” scenario honestly does not get tiring, and the hijinks that ensue as a result are nothing short of side splitting. Polly March and Antony Edridge play the bereaved Mr. and Mrs. Connors, eagerly expecting their daughter home, while our daring protagonists attempt to break the news to them. With March expertly playing Garson as a senile old woman with an extremely tentative grip on reality, and Edridge’s Balthazar a kind and gentle old man never quite sure of the precise nature of the sudden appearance of so many people in his home, the plot continues to tangle and unravel into a truly spectacular form of a farce.
There wasn’t a single moment of this performance that wasn’t enjoyable for the lay audience member. Not a single joke failed to land and the theatre was a constant cacophony of laughter at any given moment. Purely from an entertainment point of value, the show delivers in great number and it was clearly that this enjoyment was imparted with the majority of the audience. Aesthetically, while nothing exceptional to write home about, I did quite enjoy the set, of which the floor plan made absolute logical sense, and served as a valuable tool in many of the scenes involving slapstick, and there was a very clever use of the rotating stage floor. I also enjoyed the seemingly innocuous but very present attention to detail, such as the set of the elderly couple’s wall being made to look like aging wallpaper with damp creeping out from the corners. While this might seem like an unimportant detail, to me it feels as if whoever was in charge of creating it really showed commitment to doing good and complete work. I can’t help but also give major props to Edward Mercieca, who, at one point had his microphone stop working completely, but had no difficulty whatsoever to be heard at the same volume as everyone else on stage, even from the seating at the back.
My verdict; The Lying Kind is an incorrigible romp that will have you in stitches from lights to curtain. Definitely one to see and take as many friends with you as possible if you can.
- Jessica Arena, InSiter, 22/10/16
The Fabulous Lying Kind
The Lying Kind, which was shown over the month of October by Unifaun Theatre in Malta, includes content, which might suggest tragedy, such as traffic-accident deaths, heart attacks, insanity, dogs being beaten to death and talk of pedophilia.
The play is however framed in such a way, to bring about laughs at every moment of the play. Neilson has the ability to make light tragedy and turn it into the funniest possible.
The fabulous acting of the Maltese actors, helped place this production in our top list of best productions so far!
-Comino Magazine, 26/10/16
Lying as an act of kindness
There’s nothing funny about the ingredients that make up Anthony Nielsen’s 2002 farce The Lying Kind – the death of an elderly couple’s daughter in a car accident, paedophilia, animal cruelty, mental illness, old age, heart disease. Yet in the true tradition of classic British dark comedy he has written a gag-a-minute, clever farce that manages to not only have the audience in stitches throughout but also ruminate on the question, “Can lying ever be an act of kindness?”
The central characters of the play are a pair of totally inept British bobbies Blunt and Gobbel who have the unenviable task of delivering the tragic news regarding the death of a young woman to her elderly parents on Christmas eve.
The two policemen (brilliantly played by Alan Paris and Edward Mercieca) are straight out of Laurel and Hardy with a touch of the surreal. Gobbel is the more sensitive of the pair, while Blunt puts on a fake facade of strength. Neither of them wants to be the one to break the news to the elderly couple and they find themselves caught up in a tangle of lies and half truths that descends into utter chaos and public humiliation.
The elderly couple, Garson and Balthazar Conner (Polly March and Anthony Edridge) are as odd a couple as the two bobbies. Mrs Conner suffers from bouts of psychosis where she imagines she is working on a cruise liner whilst her clueless husband suffers from numerous ailments including a very weak heart that can give out at any moment.
March was excellent in her portrayal of the elderly Garson, skilfully balancing the farcical with the pathos of her cruel condition. Edridge too produced a fine performance yet the production might have benefitted from having an older actor cast in his role.
The other characters that continue to turn Blunt and Gobbel’s Christmas eve into a nightmare are Gronya (Magda van Kuilenburg), a self-styled vigilante hell bent on weeding out any paedophiles from the neighbourhood, her daughter Carol (Michaela Fenech)and the cross-dressing vicar Reverend Shandy (Thomas Camilleri).
Van Kuilenburg played Gronya as a scary mix of Vicky Pollard (from the Little Britain show) and Lauren (from the Catherine Tate show). With her, Blunt and Gobbel, find themselves once more constrained to lie but this time it is fear rather than kindness that motivates their lying.
Fenech’s cameo though brief was very well played, while Camilleri’s hilarious vicar threatened to steal the show.
Chris Gatt’s direction was fast paced and tight and the absence of an interval was a wise choice in ensuring that the momentum was sustained right through to the end. The stage design by Romualdo Moretti was extremely effective in creating the right mood as well as smoothly transitioning the action from the exterior of the Conner’s house to the interior whilst keeping both spaces visibly connected throughout.
Audiences have come to expect high quality from a Unifaun Theatre production. Although this was by far one of their more mainstream shows it was a hugely entertaining evening with a clever script and some top-notch comic acting.
-Jes Camilleri, Escape, 30/10/16
photos by Jacob Sammut