Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

07/04/2018 - 05/05/2018

Production Details

We now live in a world of ‘alternative facts’. If we can’t trust our leaders to be truthful, can we really trust our lovers?  Introducing Florian Zeller’s hot, new comedy.

There is no doubt that the French author Florian Zeller is the playwright de jour. His astonishingly brilliant play THE FATHER, a tragicomic take on dementia, was a highly acclaimed hit, both internationally and here in Wellington. And now he turns effortlessly to devious modern comedy.

Fresh from its recent sold-out London run comes the New Zealand premiere of Zeller’s latest play, THE LIE an amusing take on truth, lies and infidelity. It features Zeller’s hallmarks of sharp writing, a flirtatious desire to provoke and tease audiences. 

Michel and Laurence are coming for dinner. But Alice has spotted Michel kissing another woman that very afternoon leaving her with the dilemma, should she tell her friend what she saw or not? Her husband Paul believes it is better to behave as if nothing has happened; Alice is far from sure. As their own relationship is held up to scrutiny …it becomes clear that some truths are best left unsaid…. In affairs of the heart, the line between truth and lie can be a dangerous one to cross.

Drawing from the rich vein of classic French comedies, THE LIE is a ruthless, witty examination of love and deceit in this age of ‘alternative facts’, ‘fake news’ and ‘white lies’. The great success of Zeller’s critically acclaimed plays owes much to the pitch-perfect translations by the highly successful Christopher Hampton (LES LIASON DANGEREUSES). The pairing of these two extraordinary talents is devastatingly effective. THE LIE is smart, surprising and painfully funny.

“This French writer Florian Zeller is certainly one very talented homme. I very much enjoyed directing THE FATHER and now (with a fantastic cast), am having great fun with THE LIE. I am amazed at Zeller’s versatility. He has pivoted from comic tragedy (THE FATHER) to thoughtful smart modern comedy. In THE LIE two couples find themselves ensnared in the spiraling tissue of deceit that keeps us intrigued and entertained. Zeller, a meticulous craftsman, mines the comedy in the ever shifting layers of infidelity to devastating effect… and exposes some of the hypocrisies which sustain modern life. It is indeed a devious must see.” – Ross Jolly, Director

Circa One, 1 Taranaki St, Wellington waterfront
7 April – 5 May 2018
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm
Fri – Sat 8pm
Sun 4pm
$25 – $52

Claire Dougan,
Gavin Rutherford,
Bronwyn Turei
Andrew Foster

Lighting Designer – Marcus McShane
Set Designer – Andrew Foster

Theatre ,

A fascinating and intriguing play

Review by Ewen Coleman 10th Apr 2018

Walking into the theatre for Circa’s latest play The Lie, by French playwright Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton, the audience is confronted with a large sign that says “lying is a sign of love” which aptly sums up what this fascinating play is about.

On the surface, this play appears relatively predictable, a scenario played out in countless novels and movies … Yet, as it progresses, there are many hints that not all is what it seems, and a type of game develops about whether the truth is ever really what it seems and is lying in many instances the better option. [More


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Commendably crisp, a stunning finish

Review by Dave Smith 08th Apr 2018

“What is truth?” is the rhetorical question/evasion used by Pontius Pilate to get himself off a very large hook 2,000 years ago. Truth, as we all know, is the obverse side of lies which are second cousins to evasion and guilty secrets. This play takes on what the law has been grappling with for a while now: how do we humans stay sane and functioning as we should whilst inside a blizzard of lies where wall to wall patterns of deceit are the new norm?

It starts and ends in the sumptuous living room a Paris flat where Paul (Gavin Rutherford) and his wife Alice (Claire Dougan) are hosting a dinner party for Michel (Andrew Foster) and his comely wife Laurence (Bronwyn Turei). The oh-so-sophisticated room is dominated by an impressive giant picture of a slightly stylized French flag. That’s about as straightforward as it gets.

The couples never get to mellow because before the couple arrives Alice spills the beans that she is distraught because, from a passing taxi window, she saw Michel snogging another lady in the street. Good God! Hold the front page: “Frenchman kisses woman in street – UN on high alert”. Paul is all for letting it go (as you do) and getting on with the Chateau Lafitte with casseroled rabbit.

No says Alice. This is deadly serious. All bets are off. We can’t do this knowing what we know (whatever that is). The evening does go ahead and is wretched, what with Alice almost tipping the cat out of the bag. However, like a trick monocyclist riding furiously backwards towards the abyss, then stopping at the very edge, she and Paul manage to keep it all in the abstract. Whew!

So where can we go from there? Bed would be the obvious place. But no. We are off on a trip through the sewers in a glass bottomed boat. The plush living room becomes, in effect, a Persian-carpeted police interrogation room as Alice and Paul bat around all the dire possibilities that might arise from the shocking kissing incident. Playwright Zeller is no slug at this sort of thing. He sports a glittering stage CV. With Mr Hampton in tow to watch out for the British idioms you really could not ask for more.

And what follows makes Hampton Court maze look like a two lane intersection in Bulls. Led off by Alice posturing as a one-woman good cop/bad cop, husband and wife go hard at it exploring every conceivable meaning that might arise between them and their friends arising out of a tiny fragment in time. It is as though a Kray computer has been brought in to spit out all possible variations on THE truth, A Truth, MY truth, YOUR truth, a CONVENIENT truth, a PARTIAL truth and can we really handle the Truth?

It gets a tad gruelling in there and Paul blinks having first painted himself into a corner. He spends the night on the couch as a result. If most people in the audience were to be asked how they felt at half time they would most likely complain that their brain was hurting. This is verbal dueling for PhDs.

In Act 2 Michel gets in on the action and he is not short of some cute stratagems and poses. Alice started all this by picking at that metaphorical stray piece of wool on the sweater. My mum always said “don’t ever do that as the entire sweater will unravel…. and your bum might fall off too”. She was quite right. It would be inept to say much more but the web of deceit gets, first, tangled then impossibly tangled; but intriguingly so.

Interpersonal politics are just like political politics. So soon we are into the land of I was misquoted, I was misinformed, I was joking, I’m not that dumb, it was a long time ago  and ending up with you have to believe me if you want me to believe you. Yeah right.

It takes quite a cast to get through all this instant creativity on your feet and U-turning on a sixpence. (Henry Kissinger would not employ anyone in his State Department unless they could routinely use the triple negative in everyday speech). These actors are certainly up to it.  They more than maintain Circa’s reputation for professional excellence. Their cues are commendably crisp and nobody ever goes off at an unfortunate tangent. With this script one could hardly blame them if they did. Super witty it all is. Humorous? I’m not as sure. The verbal demands are so great it’s hard to allow laughs in as well. Endurance is all.

However, at a point where the play has reached its apparent climax Zeller has one more shot in his locker. Alas, there is an especially hot place in Hell for reviewers who give away coups de theatre. Suffice it to say that, like Hitchcock in the last reel of Rear Window, Zeller seems to be saying “Enough with the talk and the fencing around. Let’s get super real”. And super real they get; a stunning finish in which the French flag picture plays a revealing part. Get along and see. You’ll not be disappointed.  


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