DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Lies – Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Reviewer: Jonathan Cash

Writer: Degna Stone

Director: Matt Jamie

The Lies is a two-hander play analysing the impact on both parties of the lies people routinely tell their children. Along the way, it comments on the lies that underpin our society and its view of itself.

Leah, played by Degna Stone, is the mother of a young adult daughter, Angel, and she is failing to communicate with her. Not for the first time, Angel has gone out into the night in anger and frustration after a row about an unspecified topic. Leah is agonising over her failings as a mother. In what seems like an odd twist on A Christmas Carol, she is visited by three entities, not ghosts but mythical beings. Specifically, they are the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, essentially all personifications of lies.

On a bare stage occupied only by a table and two chairs, all plastered with newspapers, and with more newspapers piled up around, Stone acts out her misery as projections categorise versions of the truth. Into this comes Luca Rutherford, who plays all three mythical creatures, in her first venture as the Easter bunny. Rutherford brings energy, humour and a welcome lightness in her engaging portrayal of the carefree rabbit. Their interaction is part nostalgia, part psychoanalysis as Leah starts to explore whether telling her daughter apparently benign lies has ultimately led to the breakdown of their relationship and the fact that Angel now lies to her.

This same theme is further explored with an oddly angry and shouty Santa Claus, who has lost faith in the concept of Christmas, and a stylishly dressed tooth fairy, apparently a favourite myth of Angel’s. During this the audience learns that, possibly due to post-natal depression, Leah was slow to love her daughter, and this may have coloured their relationship.

Ultimately, Leah rehearses the apology she feels she should make to her daughter, but we do not know whether she makes it or whether it is helpful.

There is a lot of ground to cover in a 40-minute show, so it is perhaps inevitable that, at times, it descends into more of an illustrated lecture than a piece of drama, projections and soundscapes commenting on the topic throughout.

Degna Stone is a poet and at times the script becomes a little self-consciously poetic. This is a very earnest piece, though enlivened by Rutherford’s versatile and imaginative playing. Stone’s performance is heartfelt but very much on the same note throughout. Also, apart from one tantalisingly illuminating anecdote about race relations around the Stephen Lawrence case, the play does not seem to present much that is particularly surprising or original. Possibly, there are no easy conclusions on this topic and Stone can be commended for opening it up for discussion.

Runs until 3 June 2023.

The Reviews Hub Score

An Earnest Dialectic

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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