Lie Low, Royal Court, 2024
Photo: Ciaran Bagnall
  • Theatre, Drama
  • Recommended

Review

Lie Low

3 out of 5 stars

Surreal comedy about the aftermath of an attempted sexual assault

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Time Out says

The Royal Court’s third new opening in May is, I suppose, a comedy about a women dealing with the traumatic aftermath of an attempted sexual assault.

First seen at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2022, Ciara Elizabeth Smyth’s ‘Lie Low’ chiefly concerns Faye (Charlotte McCurry), a youngish Irish woman who begins the show in a dialogue with a pompous, unseen doctor to whom she divulges the fact she hasn’t been able to sleep for weeks. She insists nothing is amiss, but also lets slip the fact that a year ago a man broke into her house – she woke up to the sight of a masked figure with his dick out, though he ran off when she stirred.

Cut to the main body of the play, in which Faye enrols her brother Naoise (Thomas Finnegan) into her self-administered attempt at aversion therapy: by having her hangdog sibling wear a mask (a yellow duck) and jump out of her wardrobe, she theorises she can displace the painful memory.

It has a very distinct tone, mixing a sort of caustic glibness about issues normally treated with utmost delicacy – somewhat reminiscent of David Ireland – with a more earnest subplot in which it comes to light that Naoise has been accused of sexual assault at work.

I think what Smyth is trying to do is write a piece about the surrealness of living with trauma, how it isn’t necessarily all depression and weeping but simply… weird. Meanwhile, Faye’s extreme reaction to Naoise’s confession represents the play’s more straightforward serious side, illustrative of how paranoid she’s become, while making the point that sexual assault takes all forms.

It’s entertaining: funny, and Oisín Kearney  directs with energetic verve. And McCurry is particularly good as a woman in the throes of a truly bizarre breakdown. 

I’m not convinced it all fits together that well, though. I think Smyth basically gets away with making a comedy about sexual assault: the point she’s making is not that it’s funny, but that it can mess with victims’ heads in a way that goes beyond making them merely sad. But this feels more like a witty observation than a well-developed argument. And Naoise’s story feels awkward: he may not be the main character but I felt like we learn too much about him for his moral ambivalence to not be meaningfully interrogated. His story is sort of dropped after a while, and at just 70 minutes, ‘Lie Low’ feels like it could do with a bit more meat on its bones.

Let’s be clear, though, that this is a fringe show by a young writer that’s been snapped up to help fill David Byrne’s swiftly programmed first Upstairs season. If it was an actual Royal Court commission you’d maybe expect something slight more developed, but there is a lot of raw talent here. 

Details

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Price:
£15-£25. Runs 1hr 10min
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