The Lie (Le Mensonge)

Reviewer's Rating

The Lie, or Le Mensonge, as it is better known in Paris, is a hugely anticipated, and highly publicised production starring the renowned Pierre Arditi.

For Theatre in Paris, the start-up company that provides the innovative service of surtitling (not subtitling!) the plays into English, it is fair to say that this project was somewhat of a gamble. Considering Arditi’s wealth of experience and talent, I wondered if the nuances of his acting might get somewhat lost in translation. However, it was quickly apparent that this was not the case – I found myself laughing simultaneously with the French, and feeling smug upon realising that the Parisians had allowed me to join in with their game.

However, Bernard Murat, the director, is a strong advocate of strengthening Anglo-French relations within the domain of the arts and culture, and insists that every performance of ‘The Lie’ be surtitled.

I was initially unsure of how easy it would be to become acclimatised to watching a play performed in French, whilst simultaneously concentrating on reading the surtitles, projected above the stage. However, the dedicated Theatre in Paris host quickly quenched my concerns, stating it would only take 5-10 minutes to get used to, and he was right!

My host then explained that the etymology of ‘surtitles’ is derived from the French: ‘sur’ which means ‘above’- an important linguistic point to remember! To surmise the surtitles, I find that they play an invaluable, yet modest role. They are merely an enabling device, and do not overpower, or detract from the performance. I felt able to fully appreciate the calibre of acting on-stage.

The play centres itself on the age old concern of fidelity within marriage, portraying the relationships, primarily of Paul and Alice (Arditi and Evelyne Bouix), and secondly between Michel and Laurence (Jean-Michel Dupuis and Josiane Stoléru). Florian Zeller, the playwright, captures the audience’s attention by providing constant intrigue into the tested fidelity amongst the complex foursome.

To start with, I thought the play’s focus seemed a little too akin to a soap-style storyline. However, Murat guarantees a higher level of intellect, as it becomes apparent that the play actually anchors itself onto the universal moral dilemma of discerning the truth amongst an abundance of lies.

The acting is, unsurprisingly, incredible and authentic. Intriguingly, Arditi and Bouix are in fact married in real life. Their respective characters, Paul and Alice, have a relationship full of banter; mocking each other, and appearing stubborn- a realistic reflection of a modern day long marriage!

It is no shock then that Arditi and Bouix create an on-stage relationship which appears both natural, and hilarious! To me, their evident ease with each other brings a significant richness of quality to their on-stage performance. They are complemented well by Dupuis and Stoléru, who provide a supporting, nevertheless effective presentation.

The set is simple, yet effective. It is composed merely of two chairs, a table and some ornate portraits. All scenes take place within the home of Paul and Alice; I find this to be an interesting reflection upon their relationship. It all seemed quite ‘bourgeois,’ and did leave me wondering as to whether a show which thrives upon the trivialities of the middle classes could alienate people from different backgrounds.

This mono-set element proves to be welcome simplicity amongst the complexity of the plot. The scene changes are orchestrated by plunging the audience and stage into impenetrable darkness. This seemed to be symbolic of Zeller’s desire to quite literally keep the audience in the dark about the true sequence of events, an effective technique.

My favourite part of the play is its ending. The curtains come down, and the actors bow. However, within minutes, the curtains then come back up. Zeller forces the audience to question what has been portrayed as the truth throughout the play, by employing a game-changing ‘what could have happened?’ scene.

This scene delivers an alternative plot line, I won’t give away too much… However, I find it particularly captivating that Zeller provides this plot twist with no warning, or explanation; triggering the audience to exit the theatre in deep conversation, and debate about the meaning of the conclusion of ‘The Lie.’


Une revue de : ‘Le Mensonge’ (sommaire français)

Le Mensonge est l’un des spectacles les plus attendus de la saison théâtrale parisienne. Le célèbre Pierre Arditi y tient la vedette.

La pièce, jouée en français, est surtitrée en anglais par la start-up THEATRE IN PARIS. D’abord dubitative, j’ai en réalité trouvé qu’il était rapidement aisé de   lire les surtitres tout en regardant le spectacle – ce que m’avait promis la personne chargée de m’accueillir au théâtre! Pour résumer, je dirais que les surtitres jouent surtout un rôle de « facilitateur » et ne nuisent pas au spectacle.

La pièce elle-même est centrée sur l’éternelle question de la fidélité dans le mariage. Florian Zeller (l’auteur) raconte l’histoire de deux couples : Paul et Alice (Pierre Arditi et Evelyne Bouix) et Michel et Laurence (Jean-Michel Dupuis et Josiane Stoléru). Mise en scène par Bernard Murat, la pièce dépasse largement la dimension vaudevilesque pour porter plus haut une réflexion sur la vérité, et surtout la manière de la discerner parmi une abondance de mensonges.

Le décor se veut à la fois simple et bourgeois, ce qui m’est apparu comme une bonne représentation du rapport entre Alice et Paul. L’interprétation des comédiens est quant à elle de bonne qualité, en particulier celle de Pierre Arditi et Evelyne Bouix. A noter que tous deux sont mariés à la ville, ce qui contribue selon moi à l’authenticité et la richesse de leurs rapports sur scène.

La meilleure partie du spectacle est à mon avis sa fin. Le rideau descendu remonte, et dans une scène inattendue, Florian Zeller propose une fin alternative. Les spectateurs en sortent désorientés, plongés dans une réflexion profonde sur la vérité.