31 March 2016
Reversing the lies
Most people make no direct use of their education but whoever persuaded Christopher Hampton to study French to university level has proved an inadvertent beneficiary to British theatre. As a translator, Hampton turned an obscure French novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, into a West End and Broadway hit, and subsequently made the Parisian comedies of Yasmina Reza (Art, God of Carnage) a lucrative Anglophone brand.
In the last year and half, the English dramatist has done the same for Florian Zeller, a 36-year-old who has become the new darling of theatre in France. His adaptations of The Father, an extraordinary drama that puts the audience inside the mind of a sufferer from Alzheimer’s, and The Mother, in which a woman mourns the apparent loss of love from a husband and son, are now followed by The Truth.
The parental pair of plays were tragedies that used audience-disorienting tactics – such as more than one actor playing the same character, or confusion about whether certain lines had been spoken or thought – to give a sense of disintegrating minds or conflicting perspectives. The Truth on the surface seems lighter – a comedy of infidelity – but it becomes invigoratingly clear that, as in the previous pieces, Zeller will not easily allow theatregoers to know exactly where they are or what is what.
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