Review: The Liar

There are absolutely no prizes in guessing what the department of Theatre, Film and Television’s second early modern show is about. Lies are the aim of the game in this Parisian tale from the seventeenth century, and lies are in no short supply. The show sees Doronte (Ben Kawalec) newly arrive on the metropolitan scene and desperate to make his mark on society through any means possible. As he lies bigger than he can manage a war of wit is waged between him and those he attempts to deceive.
The production itself was a more abstract take than sister show, Turcaret. A large wall comprised of rotating panels served as a visual representation of the increasingly tangled web of lies that Doronte spins. It’s a neat collaboration between set designer Nina Harding and lighting designers Sean Byrne and Rain Lorcan Hedge which, in one moment, had the audience exude an audible “ah” with delight at the visual techniques employed. Each moment Doronte lied would be accompanied by a visual sequence and a familiar musical motif which, while thoughtful and visual pleasing, were perhaps superfluous to the storytelling. Director Thomas Leadbeater holds court well in the scenic stage but Corneille’s story isn’t quite as bold as it could be. Ranjit Bolt is no stranger to translation but he, too, seems to be playing it surprisingly safe.
The show offered a strong roster of actors to guide us through Doronte’s tale but I would be amiss not to give special mention to the fantastic performance of Marcus Crabb as the put upon valet Cliton. Every scene Crabb shows up in is an absolute joy and his shock and horror he exudes as the lies build had the audience reeling with laughter. Crabb and Kawalec are supported by strong turns from Sakeena Karim and Hannah Eggleton, and Joesph Hayes impresses, as always, with his performance as Alcippe.
After the excitement of the modern productions from the first term, the second term TFTV shows can often feel like a slight back peddling in terms of theatrical ambition but both TFTV shows this week have been a wonderful counterbalance to those of last term. The Liar holds up well with its repertoire sister, Turcaret (although the laughs don’t quite escalate to the giddy heights of Turcaret) and if you are yet to see either I can heartily recommend a double bill as they both play today.

The Liar by Pierre Corneille, performing at the Scenic Stage theatre in the University of York’s Theatre, Film and Television dept. at 2:30pm today Saturday the 11th. Tickets available at the box office and online.