REVIEW: Where is the truth when everybody lies?
WORDS BY SANDRA BUOL
The set designer has done an intriguing job. The audience is asked to wait in the foyer, then led to the stage, which is not a traditional stage but a small space in the middle of the room, framed by see-through gaze and two sets of several chairs each. Clever lightning makes it impossible to see the audience vis-à-vis, but every now and then you can hear laughter from the other side, which gives the whole setting something eerie.
But then it’s an eerie story that the SUDS crew around Eugene Lynch (Director/Producer/Set Designer) and Maggie Liuzzi (Producer) currently show at the Cellar Theatre. Set in a time when the term “sexual harassment” was a relatively new concept in the workplace – early ‘90s –, Brilliant Lies by playwright David Williamson is all about shifting power.
Gary (Tom Crotty) is a sleaze and proper bloke on top of that. He’s used to walk around the office with a certain attitude, a little joke here, a lingering glance there, and sometimes the hands are not where they’re supposed to be.
Susy (Charlotte Robathan) is a blonde, she likes a drink or two and a man or several, she’s loud, she lies and sometimes she doesn’t mind some inappropriate fondling.
But now Susy accuses Gary of sexual harassment and unfair dismissal and sues the company for $40’000. It’s the mediator’s (Beattie Tow) job to find out the truth – but can you ever know the truth in a game of lies and shifted perspectives?
Susy brings in her sister Katy (Coco Frohlich) to vouch for her. She’s adamant that her sister was witness to the distress the harassment caused her. Katy however is not quite sure. Can she vouch for someone she knows to be a compulsive liar?
Gary on the other side is being backed by his boss Vince (Campbell Mclauchlan), who doesn’t want the business to suffer. But if he’s very honest to himself, he knows that Gary’s behaviour towards the women in the office leaves much to be desired.
The whole process also sheds a light on complicated family dynamics. Susy and Katy’s father Brian (John Kennedy) is a man who has some boundaries issues himself, groping his daughters’ bodies several times when they were growing up. He now needs a surgery and the $40’000 would be welcome. But can a daughter forgive her father for what he has done to her when she was a child? Does she have to? Meanwhile there is not much room left for their whingy brother Paul (Tom Clarke) besides revealing a huge debt and emphasising his Christianity.
It’s the roles of the father and the brother that lack some convincement. In the brother’s case, it’s probably in the writing. Paul just seems a bit redundant – but then that’s how family works. There is always one that seems a bit useless. Father Brian on the other hand holds a crucial position. Granted, it’s difficult for a young man to play a retired oldster – and John Kennedy doesn’t quite manage to bring him across. This doesn’t do harm to the overall play though, which is dense, fast and very often brilliantly played.
Image credit: Brandon Tan / Maggie Liuzzi