Having spawned a film, a musical and two TV series (a British sitcom starring Jeff Rawle and Guttenberg's short-lived US version), you might think there was nothing more to add to the Liar legacy. However, the strength of Anna Linstrum's touring production lies not in the nostalgic memory it evokes of previous incarnations, but in the fresh light it shines on a character whose stubborn refusal to accept the shackles of adulthood will surely strike a chord with every console-twiddling, net-surfing contemporary adolescent.
Nagged by his parents, stuck in a job he detests and lumbered with two fiancees, each of whom think they have exclusive claim to his affections, lowly undertaker's clerk Billy Fisher (Little) has a habit of making his life more difficult than it has to be. Small wonder he takes refuge in a fantasy kingdom where he is supreme ruler, or pretends to have a job lined up in London writing gags for a music hall comedian. Over the course of 24 eventful hours, Billy's house of cards comes tumbling about his ears. But when the chance to escape comes, will he take it?
Lanky, gawky and gangly, Little makes an endearingly clueless hero whose cheeky-chappie charm doesn't quite excuse his character's inherent selfishness. This is no star turn, however, with Paul Copley bringing Northern grit to his role as Billy's gruffly critical dad and Rachel Leskovac wringing every chuckle out of his dumpy, orange-munching girlfriend. Sarah Churm is also excellent as her shrewish rival Rita, whose tart tongue ("Go back in the cheese with the other maggots!") makes Alex Ferguson's hairdryer look like a mild breeze in comparison.
Elsewhere Tracie Bennett is perhaps too young to convince as Little's world-weary mother, while as free-spirit Liz Joanna Page - last seen playing a naked stand-in in Love Actually - can't hold a candle to her radiant screen counterpart Julie Christie. That instance apart, it's a testament to Linstrum's ensemble that you leave singing the praises of her cast rather than hankering for those who went before.
- Neil Smith (reviewed at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley)