The Truth

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(15user reviews)
 (© Marc Brenner)
1/5
© Marc BrennerAlexander Hanson (Michel) and Frances O'Connor (Alice)
 (© Marc Brenner)
2/5
© Marc BrennerFrances O'Connor (Alice) and Alexander Hanson (Michel) 
 (© Marc Brenner)
3/5
© Marc BrennerFrances O'Connor (Alice) and Alexander Hanson (Michel) 
 (© Marc Brenner)
4/5
© Marc BrennerRobert Portal (Paul) and Alexander Hanson (Michel)
 (© Marc Brenner)
5/5
© Marc BrennerRobert Portal (Paul) and Alexander Hanson (Michel)

'The Truth' is painfully funny in Florian Zeller's drama

This is the third play by the dazzling young French playwright Florian Zeller (‘The Father’, ‘The Mother’) to be staged in London in less than two years – and the third to be translated by British writer Christopher Hampton. It’s a zippy, witty farce about ever-shifting layers of infidelity as experienced by two middle-aged Parisian couples. The play’s laughs are as sharp as Lindsay Posner’s ruthlessly swift and snappy production (90 minutes, no interval). Its comedy is playful but also barbed: one of the characters even asks, ‘I want to know what kind of play we’re in. Is it a comedy? Or a tragedy?’

We enter on a classic adultery set-up: Alice (Frances O’Connor, sleekly guarded) and Michel (Alexander Hanson, endearingly pompous), both well-turned-out professionals, are pulling up their pants mid-afternoon in a hotel room. It turns out that Michel is good friends with Alice’s husband, Paul (Robert Portal), and in turn Paul and Alice know Michel’s wife, Laurence (Tanya Franks). They’re urban sophisticates doing the dirty with a surface elan, and they're all intricately connected, just as in Harold Pinter’s landmark 1970s adultery drama ‘Betrayal’, a comparison that feels even more fitting when, as here, the play is performed in English with the refined accents of the haute-bourgeoisie.

Between the laughs, ‘The Truth’ plants seeds of discomfort about why and how we lie to each other and ourselves. It makes a mockery of truth, making it appear more and more of an absurd idea with each new revelation. There’s a strong, tricksy sense of 'performance' in each scene: of characters playing out versions of themselves; of them using language as a shield. An endearing, increasingly shaken Alexander Hanson runs the full gamut from wrong’un to wronged as Michel, while Robert Portal as Paul offers an intriguing play on male defence mechanisms. Tanya Franks wears perhaps the saddest, most sophisticated mask of them all as Michel's wife Laurence.

The language of blame is rife: ‘What a bitch!’, ‘What a bastard!’. Lying is fine, it seems, as long as you’re in charge. This is a lighter, perhaps more throwaway play than ‘The Father’ – Zeller’s last play to transfer to the West End – but its quick pace and bracing comic wordplay fail to hide some piercing, lasting truths.

By: Dave Calhoun

Posted:

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:6
  • 4 star:8
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|15
1 person listening
Tastemaker

Clever little short play surprisingly funny dealing with the shenanigans of two couples Michel and Laurence and Paul and Alice. So it is revealed that their other halves happen to be having adulterous affairs with each other. It will make you question whether is it better to lie to spare hurt and hard feelings or be honest moral and tell the truth. I had heard great things about this scriptwriter and enjoyed this adaptation thoroughly. Thought provoking, laugh out loud, cringey uncomfortable moments galore. Hilarious moments of pure pompousness and hypocrisy from Michel (Alexander Hanson) who I felt was great in this despite Basically my conclusion is it’s better to tell the truth..

tastemaker

A very funny Frech play written by Florian Zeller, it is a one act play that although short can feel longer because of the amount of twists and turns that take place throughout. The cast of four keep the dialogue punchy and the audience always know that there will be another howler waiting just around the corner. 

Tastemaker

This is a very well written play and, not being fluent in French, I think some of the praise must go to Christopher Hampton's adaption. The dialogue flows pretty much non-stop from the get go with the story driven along by a brilliant performance from Alexander Hanson and supported by Tanya Franks (his wife), Frances O'Connor (his mistress) and his best friend (Robert Portal). The cast excel at keeping the metaphorical ball bouncing all over the place. Based around an adulterous affair, bit by bit is revealed as the awkward situations unfold one by one. If you go with your partner expect to share a few laughs or perhaps a probing conversation afterward. 


At 90 minutes with no interval, the play is about the perfect length. The set is Ikea smooth and spaces are easily distinguished. I thought it was very funny; a compliment to both the writing and the performances. It wasn't as heavy hitting as other Florian Zeller pieces and did seem overly farcical at points but I don't think this detracts from what is a very enjoyable hour and a half.  



tastemaker

A really funny, clever, sharp, French farce about adultery. Short, no interval, and no moments wasted.

Great performances from a cast of four - Alexander Hanson is particularly good. The original French has been translated from the original Florian Zeller play by the dependable Christopher Hamilton & was as crisp as a fresh carrot.Like the audience I sat with I loved it.Give us more modern French plays please.
Tastemaker

A clever, funny show from the writer of 'The Father' which was a hit in the west end. Full of twists and turns, just as you think you've started to work out 'the truth' your expectations are shattered. What's real and what's a lie? Good luck untangling this web of tall tales!

tastemaker

Who knew that a play about adultery could be so funny!  This play is very witty, well-written and superbly acted (especially by Alexander Hanson, who you actually end up feeling sorry for even though he is a cheating, lying, hypocrite).  The staging is simple but extremely effective and you a quickly transported into a bizarre world of lies, intrigue and deceit - the moral of the story is that cheats never prosper and will ultimately be caught out.  Worth watching!

Tastemaker

Fantastic play. Shocked and gripped throughout. Excellent acting. Very funny. Must see.

tastemaker

After the heavy subject material of the excellent plays The Father and The Mother, it's a joy to watch Zeller's comedy about how the French view and deal with affairs. Very funny throughout.


Went to see this today. Not an overly complicated plot, good fast paced comedy romp, excellent cast, very funny. Great afternoon out.


Great play.  Very funny. Fast paced and witty, the cast did not put a foot out of place.  I enjoyed so much I booked again with a different friend!! 


I have seen The Father - and was somehow expecting this to be a serious play but it's very funny and a totally different take on infidelity and lying! Actually it is a very French take on infidelity in that the French are realistic (I guess) on the difficulties of long term monogamy, the acceptability (somewhat) of discreet infidelity and even lying to protect the "unknowing" spouse... I found myself laughing and cringing throughout - very enjoyable despite the subject matter. Florian Zeller - one to watch if you get the chance!

Tastemaker

I didn't know what to expect from this play as a friend had treated me to tickets so I hadn't read anything about it, but when the curtains opened to a man's bottom as he pulled up his pants, I knew I was in for a good show!


With the exception of the over-the-top accents, which are a little bit grating, I found this play a pleasure to watch from start to finish. It had some hillarious moments, verging on farce - the kind that reminded me somewhat of the comedic scenes you'd see on Frasier and built up momentum really well towards the second half.


This play won't be for everyone, it's simple, more about the words and comic timing and has no flashy scenes. It's also probably going to resignate more with couples in long term relationships, though I'm not one of them and that didn't affect my enjoyment. Overall one to go and see if you like this sort of thing - funny, observational and well acted giving you a feeling of peeping through the curtains of upper middle-class surburbia.

Tastemaker

Really disappointed with this, horrendously stagey middle class farce with occasional try-hard meta references and a very obvious conclusion. A real disappointment after Zeller's fantastic "The Father".  The audience seemed to enjoy it but this didn't connect at all with me, can see what was trying to be achieved but I felt completely distant.

tastemaker

The play, about two couples tangled in affairs, is carried off by such slick performances it deserves this place on the West End after its run at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Simple set, good script and well timed- if there's such a thing as a 'suspense comedy', this is the best I've seen.