Wednesday, 4 February 2009

True Love Lies - Royal Exchange, Manchester

True Love Lies by Brad Fraser
Director: Braham Murray

Reviewer: Clare Howdon

‘True love lies’ is the new play from Canadian playwright Brad Fraser and is the most recent production in a fifteen year relationship between Fraser and the Royal Exchange
Theatre, Manchester.

‘True love lies’ is at its core a story dealing with the trials and tribulations of love and its’ effect on family life. However, thanks to the razor sharp writing of Fraser, it has been given a very contemporary twist. The story revolves around married Interior Designers Carolyn (Teresa Banham) and Kane (John Kirk) and their two teenage children Madison (Amy Beth Hayes) and Royce (Oliver Gomm). When Madison is turned down for a waitressing job by local restaurateur David (Jonny Phillips) because of her relation to Kane, a family secret is revealed; prior to his marriage, Kane was in a relationship with David for two years. From this point forward, more secrets are revealed and ultimately the stability of the family unit threatens to unravel.

Brad Fraser is undeniably a talented writer. His work appears fresh and bitingly modern. Intriguingly, this isn’t a play about a married man’s denial and refusal to accept his true sexuality. Rather, it is abundantly clear that he loves and lusts after his wife and always has - he just happened to have a two year relationship with a man. It is this honest portrayal of modern love that makes this play feel so fresh. There is no room for labels within these characters’ interwoven lives. As Madison herself observes "Gay is so over - it doesn't mean anything any more. It's like Negro or Jewess. It's all just sex."

The play itself has a small screen feel to it mainly due to rolling short scenes and snappy punchy dialogue. This can be exhausting at times and the interval provides welcome respite, an opportunity to absorb the plot and prepare for the second half. However, this metronomic storytelling medium is surprisingly effective. There is certainly no chance of attention waning at any point with the combination of Fraser’s writing alongside Braham Murray’s slick and stylish direction making the piece thoroughly engaging throughout. Murray’s direction also takes a much needed gear change in the second half of the play allowing the action to slow down and giving the characters the chance to develop reassuring depth.

The 5-strong cast put in a sterling effort to give this writing the energy and vibrancy it needs. Comic timing throughout is impeccable and, despite the fast pace and the incessant mobility of the cast, characters are well fleshed out and relationships convincing. Amy Beth Hayes gives a fantastic performance as the lovably frank and honest Madison whilst the subtlety of Teresa Banham's performance as Carolyn contrasts beautifully with the devilishly sexy and dynamic David (played with confidence and buckets of charisma by Jonny Philips).

There were, for me, occasions when jokes felt a little contrived - but this does not take away from the enjoyment of the production. Theatre lovers and ‘TV generation’ alike will love the brutal frankness, pace and excitement of this production and, with the Royal Exchange’s new scheme to make 10,000 free tickets available to under 26 year olds, this is perfect theatre to offer them.

Photos: Jonathan Keenan
True Love Lies runs at the Royal Exchange until Sat 21st Feb 09
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