Until a couple of years ago, few people knew about Florian Zeller, but after the success of The Father – which just completed an Oliver Award-winning run at the West End’s Duke of York’s Theatre – he’s now one of the hottest things in playwriting.
His latest offering, The Truth, now playing at the Wyndham’s Theatre, is more comedic in tone than The Father – but goes to similar lengths to shine a light on modern living and the pressures of modern life.
Here the narrative follows two married couples – Michel (Alexander Hanson) and Laurence (Tanya Franks), and Paul (Robert Portal) and Alice (Frances O’Connor) – who are the only characters we see in the show; in the opening scene we discover that Michel and Alice are having an affair, and over the course of the few weeks that the story follows, their duplicitous lives begin to unravel.
But the rub of The Truth comes when – through a series of misunderstandings, false alibis and mistaken identities – we discover their affair is the least of the lies being spun, as more and more falsehoods bubble to the surface.
The Truth is very much a character piece, and all four of the leads here are expertly drawn. Perhaps best of all is Michel, a role which Hanson is clearly revelling in playing: bumbling through his crumbling pack of lies in a manner somewhere between Basil Fawlty and Malcolm Tucker.
If we’re being nit-picky, it would’ve been good to see more of Franks – a real presence on stage – who really shines in the few scenes she is, particularly near the end; but other support, O’Connor and Portal are perfect foils to Hanson’s chaotic devolution. In addition, the French names, but clear, strong British accents, is a little jarring at first, and it’s curious why the character names haven’t been recast in Christopher Hampton’s translation – or the action relocated to, say, London, or Cheshire – or, conversely, that they’re not speaking with French accents, as it feels like nothing would’ve been lost in such a bold move.
Packed full of pithy one-liners, acerbic putdowns and sharp spikey dialogue, The Truth is further example of how brilliant a storyteller Zeller is. It’s a tight, compact blast of a show (there’s no interval), and it flies by in a series of belly laughs and cringey, painfully acute observations. It’s a brilliant portrait of the pressures of monogamy, and the difficulties of making a marriage work over 20 years, but it’s also a hilarious, farcical and riotous romp through some spectacular moments of masterful, misguided deceitfulness.
The Truth is now showing at the Wyndham’s Theatre. Book your tickets now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.