A performance about the performance of a performance.
In LIES a murder case is interwoven in a theatrical event: a merge of a staged story and a real event. The versions of the witnesses’ involved are juxtaposed with the performed, mediated narration represented in front of the audience.
The frame of a staged show before and after and in the middle of the action is thematised in LIES. The two performers, Peter Stevens and Samantha Lock, play themselves debating about the authenticity of being in front of an audience and delivering a dramatic show by following the director’s instruction. Throughout the show they embody various roles in a murder case by stepping outside and inside of the staged event, the interrogation in front of the police, in front of the self and in front of the momentary audience. The concept of lying is thus challenged as a retelling of an event perceived through different eyes and approached within the staged story in front of an audience. Where is the line between authenticity and truth and pretence, representation and lie? LIES is an exploration about that grey area.
Written and directed by Yuqun Fan, LIES is the first production of the emerging theatre company Lost Chapters Theatre and performed at The London Theatre in New Cross. Lost Chapters Theatre was founded by RADA’s MA Text and Performance graduates Fan and Jane Ryan, who took on the role of the dramaturg in this production.
The most intriguing idea that LIES has to offer is the deconstruction of the promise of resolution in the stories we encounter: beginning, middle and end. The idea that there is no such thing as exposition, climax and closure is irritating, unsettling and surprising. Even though it is not a subversive approach to theatre considering the performative turn in the 1960s, it still is effective and triggers discussions. The wondering if an interval only delays the desired yet needed end of the performed story or if the performance may continue in the bar of The London Theatre, motivates the audience to stay and think a little longer. It is a strong ending even when it eludes this term.
However, the unravelling of various layers of the show LIES, cannot cover the fact that the ambitious attempt of the show lacks in its telling and staging. The absence of a clear focus confuses the audience instead of inspiring them to pick up the pieces: is it an unmasking of the theatrical event? An exploration within the area of possible versions of a truth? The dismantling of the judgmental term lies? Or perhaps a criticism of the staging of events in society?
LIES is not about solving a murder case but about staging the story of the event while unmasking the frame of its delivery as a performance. The openness of its reading is promising and turns the audience in active participator. Nevertheless, they need to be guided through the creative journey of its makers to no not get lost in the mixture of various aspects, layers and thoughts. A precise communication of the shared story is needed to turn LIES into the clear, but open image of the thought-provoking and inspiring show it can become.
The details and various layers of LIES present a kaleidoscope of different stories yet to be explored. The storyline did not achieve its purpose of a deep investigation of performing, bending facts and perceiving differently. The use of the polygraph was unnecessary for the debate about questioning the one and single truth and/or the physical and psychological state of the interviewee influencing the black/white picture of performing a version aka truth or lie. In the case of its importance for that dichotomy, it needs to play a bigger role in the process otherwise it seems distracting within. Furthermore, the rapid light changes represent shifts of narrational viewpoints and the merge of event and re-telling, but its execution irritates and blocks the audience from the immersion in the staged scenes. If the constant wake up call of seeing a performance is desired, then this needs to be presented more direct, braver and clearer. For now, the recapturing of the three versions appears to be between a self-conscious attempt of the performer to be immersed within the staged scene, and the unmasking of staging representations. Additionally, it has to be considered that staged self-consciousness is still a performance and endangers to turn the show into a lecture about the concept of theatricality.
LIES shows great potential and a passionate urge to dismantle the very essence of theatricality on and offstage , media and daily life. It is a work-in-progress show that needs to specify its subject matter and tune its delivery in order to communicate its artistic and academic ambition precisely. LIES offers the opportunity to explore momentariness and self-consciousness within a staged show. Nevertheless, LIES reaches the audience to think, debate and question the theatrical event by challenging the expectations of the Londoner theatre-goer.
LIES played at The London Theatre until 27 June
Photo: Lost Chapters Theatre