Liar Liar

E V Crowe
Unicorn Theatre

Rita Arya as Coco and Danusia Samal as Grace Credit: Manuel Harlan
Danusia Samal as Grace Credit: Manuel Harlan
Carl Patrick as Steve and Danusia Samal as Grace Credit: Manuel Harlan
Thomas Padden as David (Grace's father) Credit: Manuel Harlan
Danusia Samal as Grace (on X-box) Credit: Manuel Harlan

Fourteen-year-old Grace cut school and then stayed out all night. She tells her dad David that she was out on the marshes. He asks whether it at a rave and she doesn’t deny it.

Sister Coco says the messaging among their mates is all about Grace going off with sexy young Javaad. Coco’s jealous; she may be older but she’s never been with a boy. Grace says it wasn’t like that but is then off into a vivid description of a fantasy romantic assignation.

We get a hint of what really happened from the messaging between Grace and Javaad which, since we can’t all look over her shoulder, is projected for the audience to read even as they text it. “I don’t think I can lie for you about it forever” says Grace. “I’m getting tired of making stuff up.”

The audience may have that insider knowledge but others draw their own conclusions. Grace has a habit of what she calls “recreational lying”. She may give herself away by the detail with which she embroiders but with an imagination fed by the violent computer game she loves playing and what she gets from the media she makes it sound as though she’s got mixed up in all sorts of mayhem. She has certainly cast herself as a bad girl but she’s loyal and there’s something she won’t tell, because “You shouldn’t say truth unless you are sure it won’t hurt someone… It just comes pouring out like little tiny truth bullets... And it’s terrible.”

But what has Grace got to feel guilty about? A little boy has gone missing; something terrible seems to have happened. Was Grace involved? Neighbourhood Watch volunteer Steve who saw her and brought her home after that night out seems to think so, but he’s also worried about what anyone might think who saw her in his car. David, unemployed and fond of the bottle, was out drunk that night and remembers a boy but nothing else. Steve goes to the police.

The question here however is not “who done it?” but "what is real and what is not?". Is your truth my truth? It presents us with a world seen from a young teen perspective where riots can seem exciting, video games become immersive and lies can make life seem more interesting. It is a play about truth and what you think is true.

Thomas Padden’s David shows no rancour that his wife left him and is having a baby with another man (or has Grace invented that bit?) but there is a hint of desperation in the way he is coping. There has been another girlfriend since and his daughters took that in their stride.

Danusia Samal gives Grace real energy, grabbing a microphone she sings like an X Factor contender. It is a performance of great honesty, a girl with so much still to work out. Ritu Arya makes a very Perky Coco and together the three of them present an intriguing picture of a family unit, believable mixture of conflict and loyalties, an underlying closeness between father and daughters.

Carl Patrick’s neighbour Steve seems less secure; there is conflict between his self-righteous doing his duty and a fear of getting involved.

Designer James Perkins gives Grace a wonderfully chaotic bedroom, clothes all over the place, that can instantly become a fantasy world. It helps Blanche McIntyre’s production negotiates swift changes of mood while keeping strong performances rooted in reality.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton