Fake & Lie with Me - Review

This double bill of premiered plays shared the common theme of lying.

In Fake the audience are part of a live show at which celebrity TV medium, Steve Eldritch, relays messages from “beyond the veil”. Before the performance, in an attempt to create the right atmosphere, the production team provided a novel touch. A trailer was shown in the bar area before the performance, featuring the medium in his dressing room preparing for the show and previous subjects providing testimonials of how they had been helped. Unfortunately at the matinee performance I attended, daylight made it impossible for a clear image to be seen. The trailer was rather long and the loss of clarity meant that the attention span waned and interest was lost.

Also before the performance I was approached by Michael Graney, who wrote the play, with the request not to reveal any of the surprises that may occur during the performance – like The Mousetrap, he did not want future audiences to be aware of any surprises. I am happy to go along with his request.

Suffice it to say that with appropriate fanfares and announcements Eldritch enters and with suitable warm up patter begins to select subjects/victims and provides them with “messages” A drama ensues that calls into question his validity – is Eldritch genuine or fake? Hugh Stockdale delivered a spot-on portrayal of the smarmy Eldritch – all spray tan, sparkling teeth and squirming sincerity. As his “selected victims” Vincent Youngman gave a quiet understated performance of a recently widowed young man whilst Emily Gallichan’ Eve was played very young and nervous – however the constant clutching and fiddling with her skirt soon became irritating. Phillipa Watt played Bright, a lady full of neurotic emotion – a strong performance that would have been bettered by bringing more light and shade into her delivery. Having started on such a high note she continued on one long plateau.

Lie With Me, devised by Steve Coulson, is homage to Mike Leigh and his improvisational style of working. A series of short scenes worked out with the cast revealed the overlapping lives of four characters and the lies that they tell in order to protect themselves or to live out their fantasies. Debbie shoplifts jewellery that she passes off as gifts from imaginary boyfriends; Darren is a middle aged man with low self esteem whose wife has left him; Sarah is in the midst of a crisis with her soon to be husband ending the relationship and Sian, a feisty youngster who resents her mother’s constant nagging.

Succinct dialogue and sharp, seamless scene transitions soon captured the imagination and engendered a fascination as the lives of each character impinged on the others. There were no weak performances. Anthony Dale, as Darren, began suitably downtrodden and became another person as his relationship with Sian developed. Emma Prendergast’s Sarah was full of internal emotion as she could not accept that the wedding was not going to take place – a fact she could not bring herself to admit to her mother. Dan Walker gave a competent performance in the small role of her fiancée as did Christine Laurence, playing Sian’s mother.

But it was the performances of Danielle White & Miranda Morris that stood out. White invested Sian with a certain charm despite her truculence and foul mouth. The bonding between her and Darren was intriguing to watch as each built confidence in the other.

Morris gave a remarkable performance as Debbie, one of the great unloved. Having met and, in her mind, claimed Darren as her own it was fascinating to watch her mood swings as she reacted to others intruding. She quietly brought out the desperation of a woman, living with her mother, desperately seeking love and someone “to lie with”.

Congratulations to Ulrike Schilling for taking over the staging of this play when Coulson had to drop out for health reasons.

Barrie Jerram
27 March 2011