Tara Fitzpatrick: Bold performances and direction make for an entertaining The Lying Kind

Our brand new theatre critic Tara Fitzpatrick kicks off with her take on The Lying Kind from the Tron Theatre Company

THE Scottish premiere of Anthony Neilson’s 2002 farcical comedy, The Lying Kind, is an outrageous, and at times uncomfortable, production about the morality of withholding or distorting the truth for the greater good.

The setup is straight forward. Two feckless, young police officers, Blunt (Martin McCormick) and Gobbel (Michael Dylan), arrive at the door of an elderly couple on Christmas Eve, tasked with the unpleasant business of informing them that their daughter has died in a motorway accident. 

From herein, a stream of misunderstandings and increasingly ridiculous actions occur, including a cross-purpose dialogue in which Gobbel realises the bewildered elderly couple believe it to be their dog who has died rather than their daughter.

While at times the plot verges on the far-fetched, the play contains enough riotous slapstick under Andy Arnold’s direction to keep the laughs coming.

While at times the plot verges on the far-fetched, the play contains enough riotous slapstick under Andy Arnold’s direction to keep the laughs coming. One particular scene which wins applause is Gobbel’s desperate attempt to hide a knocked-out Reverend Shandy (Gavin Jon Wright) in a tiny cupboard by frantically emptying its contents into the Christmas tree. 

This is not the first time this year that the Tron Theatre Company has comically destroyed a middle-class living room. As the pleasant decor of elderly couple Balthasar (Peter Kelly) and Garson (Anne Lacey) is increasingly turned upside down by the escalating chaos it is easy to draw parallels with March’s production of Yazmina Reza’s God of Carnage, in which a group of parents turn a civilised discussion into tantrum-induced anarchy.

Those familiar with Neilson’s black comic works, such as 1997’s The Censor, may find the plot devices of The Lying Kind lacking in the dark and satirical observations which make the genre successful. 

It also does not help that the Tron’s annual dose of summer comedy last year was Martin McDonagh’s devilishly hilarious The Lonesome West – a comedy as wonderfully dark as they come.

Instead, The Lying Kind relies on straight-up farce. The problem, though, is that the outlandish and professionally compromising situations in which Blunt and Gobbel find themselves are at times too implausible and so easily avoided that suspension of disbelief is difficult.

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One such example is with the character of Gronya (Gayle Telfer Stevens), an intimidating mother leading an angry mob of vigilantes named Paps (Parents Against Paedophile Scum) who wrongly believe Blunt and Gobbel to be involved in a police operation to secretly up-and-move a suspected local paedophile from harm’s way. 

However professionally inept the two protagonists may be, it feels silly that their authority would be so utterly ineffectual against Gronya’s threatening behaviour.

Nonetheless, the sharp double act of the two hapless leads is perfectly developed with Blunt being the slightly more on the ball of the pair and Gobbel taking the role of the blundering dimwit.

Neilson’s text may take the well-trodden comedy path, but the performances and direction of Tron Theatre Company are bold enough to keep an audience entertained right through the nearly two-hour long production.

The Lying Kind, Tron Theatre Company, Director Andy Arnold, 6–22 July

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