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Liar Liar

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Young playwright EV Crowe further solidifies her 'one to watch' status with this sharply observed one-act piece about a teenager in trouble.

Directed by fellow rising star Blanche McIntyre, it was inspired, according to a programme note, by Crowe's desire to "write a story that might come before the start of... King Lear." In other words, before a daughter has the strength to tell her father the truth.

The daughter in this instance is Grace (Danusia Samal), a computer game-mad 14-year-old who rouses suspicions when she plays truant on the same day a young boy is murdered. Queried by her sister, father and neighbour, she invents evermore elaborate lies regarding her whereabouts that day, until the crushing truth is revealed.

Her stories give her an excuse to act out fantasies, played out on James Perkins' clever box-of-tricks bedroom set: Telling her sister (Ritu Arya) of a romantic date with her 'boyfriend' Javaad, Grace becomes a Justin Bieber-singing superstar; and, most poignantly of all, while comforting her troubled father (Thomas Padden) she imagines an incident when he rescued her from drowning.

But, of course, the elaborate storytelling is all a means of protection from much more painful realities. As she tells her father with heartbreaking frankness, "I don't think you should tell someone the truth unless you're sure it won't hurt them."

Boasting a strong set of performances, led by the excellent Samal, and imaginatively staged by McIntyre (an entire scene takes place through text messages projected on the back wall), this is the latest in a string of excellent plays at the Unicorn - including the Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated Mad About the Boy - aimed at a teenage demographic.

And although Crowe's conclusion is far from sunny, she does at least provide some hope that, through sheer force of imagination, Grace and the many like her may somehow rise above the misery of a broken home.


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