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Liars' Market

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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It seems almost inevitable that someone who spends much of their working life in the theatre will, at some point, put pen to paper and write a play.

Ernest Hall, stage manager of the National Theatre for 30 years, has done just this and last night saw the world premiere of his first full-length creation at the Union Theatre.

The play, with a few tweaks, has the potential to be really good. The first act is well paced and funny but unfortunately the momentum is lost in a second, bogged down in self-conscious monologues. One is aware that the playwright wants the audience to understand character motivations but it’s frustrating that he couldn’t find a more original way to do it.

Set in Bradford in 1946 the story centres on four characters whose lives become entangled by a series of lies and deceptions. Eric (Howard Teale) seeks to improve the life of his housebound sister Sonia (Anny Tobin) by telling her about the fictitious life he has created for himself and his weekly meetings with his ‘hired’ mistress Susan (Lucy Beaumont). Meanwhile Max (Jamie Kenna), Susan’s lover (and pimp) is a deserter whose only wish is to return to London and, believing Eric’s fiction, sees in him the chance for a train ticket to King’s Cross setting in motion a string of events with disastrous consequences.

Lucy Beaumont gives a compelling performance as Susan, the least calculating and most endearing of all the characters while Anny Tobin’s physical performance is outstanding - I only wish that the script had given her enough support to bring the calculating cruelty of Sonia fully to life. Jamie Kenna’s Max is wonderfully complex, moving between loving and violent in a heartbeat, while Howard Teale is a perfectly floundering and ineffectual Eric.

Charlie Cridlan’s design gives physical form to the entwining of these four lives - although the hanging fur coats create unnecessary clutter marring an otherwise decent set. Mark Pritchard’s lighting design is simple but effective, especially the use of suggestive red lights over the bed, and tying it all together is Colin Brown’s jaunty and period-perfect sound design.

All told, Liars' Market has plenty going for it and, despite the need for some judicious pruning, marks a competent debut.

- Laura Norman


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