Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Truth-Teller

David Crook
The King's Head Theatre

Tom Radford and Martha Barnett
Martha Barnett, Naveed Khan and Tom Radford
Tom Radford and Gary Cady

The notion of truth has always been a prominent theme in comedy. Whether it’s finding the funny in everyday realities, the chaos in covering up the facts or the ridiculous in far-fetched yarns, truth (or lack thereof) is key.

While many a writer has utilised the comedic power of lies, just as many have shown incessant truth telling to be equally amusing. Take Ricky Gervais’s The Invention Of Lying as a case in point—worlds without even the whitest of lies wreak havoc with our social conventions, leading to just the ‘cringe comedy’ Gervais majors in. But what is the ultimate truth and when is it OK, or even necessary, to tell a lie?

In his latest play The Truth-Teller, David Crook skims over the deeper philosophical and moral quandaries as he presents to us Jonathan (Tom Radford), a compulsive liar whose ‘sickness’ has put his relationship in jeopardy. His girlfriend Mary has had enough, and sends him to her shrink friend Shane to help cure him of his impulse. After all, what chance does she stand when he can’t even tell a cab driver his real address?

Typically, when Shane ‘fixes’ him, Jonathan’s newfound desire for ‘unwavering and ubiquitous’ truth telling isn’t quite what Mary had in mind. After a painfully truthful dissection of their sex life, Jonathan is sent packing back to Shane in search of a happy medium.

While the play doesn’t shed much light on the key questions surrounding lying and truth, it does prove an entertaining ride. Crook’s sharp, sketch-style script keeps the action moving and the laughter coming, while director Svetlana Dimcovic draws Pythonesque energy from the increasingly unlikely situations.

Lively and warm, the scenes between an exasperated but determined Mary and seemingly helpless Jonathan are the most convincing, while credit is due to Shane’s secretary/lover Lucy, who is played Fawlty Towers-style by a sexily-clad Sammy Kissin.

While the first 45 minutes are a great example of traditional British stage farce, the hell-for-leather approach towards the end of the play descends into lazy stereotype.

Characters become caricatures—particularly Naveed Khan’s Asian shop owner, whose initial scene showed great promise. As he repeats comedy gestures and facial expressions as though trying for a world record, the racial stereotype is taken so far it loses all impact later in the play. A shame, since Khan is clearly better than this.

Elsewhere Gary Cady’s arrogant therapist also falls short, going straight for the obvious cliché with every line and offering nothing particularly unique to the role. The audience would certainly be lying if they said they weren’t on the verge of losing interest during some of his more elaborate proclamations.

Thankfully our two main stars offer great chemistry and likeability, while Kissin brings a touch of old-school fun to proceedings. With a bit of reining in, this could have been truly special, but regardless, it would be lying to deny The Truth-Teller offers a thoroughly entertaining evening.

Reviewer: Kat Halstead