“Don’t play those games with me”
In these post-referendum times, there’s something a little ironic in the whole-hearted manner withw which British theatre has embraced French playwright Florian Zeller. From The Father to The Mother and now to The Truth, from the Theatre Royal Bath to the heart of the West End, Zeller is clearly having un moment. A moment that has been extended by the Menier Chocolate Factory transferring their production of The Truth into the Wyndham’s Theatre for the summer.
Less inventive and affecting as his other two plays that we’ve seen, The Truth is more of an outright comedy, almost farcical at times, as the affair between Michel and his best friend’s wife Alice threatens to spiral out of control as his own wife seems to be getting closer to discovering what is going on, and who knows what Alice’s husband knows. But as ever with Zeller, it’s very difficult to ascertain exactly what we – or his characters – can believe, the truth is as slippery and unknowable as ever.
The Truth owes a certain (acknowledged) debt to Pinter’s Betrayal, with all its close friendships and infidelity, but uncertainty is the lord of misrule here and it just doesn’t have the same effect here, especially compared to the inspired disorientation that characterised The Father. Here, we have these two couples telling each other different versions of events over and over, depending on who they’re talking to, depending on what iteration of the truth they think the other wants to hear.
Lindsay Posner’s production deals well with these ever-shifting perceptions of reality in the seven scenes of the play. And naturally it is very well-acted. Alexander Hanson’s hypocritical and increasingly het-up Michel is a powerful centre, Frances O’Connor’s mistress and Tanya Franks’ wife Laurence spin off intriguingly with their own self-possessed angles (Franks is particularly good at the aching sadness here). And completing the quartet, Robert Portal’s Paul offers up the most fascinating take, his cuckold coming good as The Truth unfolds. Or does it.