Here’s why you should catch Singapore Repertory Theatre’s The Truth before 20 April.
“I have never started a play knowing exactly how it was going to end,” said French novelist and playwright Florian Zeller in an interview published in the programme booklet handed out as we walked in. As an entangled audience watching his play The Truth, presented by the Singapore Repertory Theatre, there’s no way we could’ve predicted how it was going to end either. Perhaps I should’ve paid more attention to the foreshadowing literature that I ended up using to hide my wide-mouthed laugh. Oh, and laugh you will too…
If you think of it, infidelity is hardly a laughing matter but play-goers couldn’t help cracking up, nervously giggling and even mwhahaha’ing (swear we heard an evil laugh or two in there). That’s just how witty, clever, sneaky and deviously comical the writing is… and the acting.
Translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by UK-based Singaporean director Ng Choon Ping, The Truth revolves around Michael, a self-absorbed protagonist who is so caught up in his own web of lies that he’s rather oblivious to the obvious. It’s fast paced and there’s no room for a lag – the opening scene jumps right into bed with Michael and Alice, who happens to be his best friend Paul’s wife. Michael’s wife Lauren has her doubts and so does the unemployed Paul, but Michael talks his way out of every suspicious question, shifting the power dynamics his way, stepping in and out of pickles with his loud and frazzled personality… or at least he thinks so.
And can we talk about the incredible set design for a minute? What starts off as an unsuspecting white wall with basic rectangular outlines morphs into a wardrobe-like contraption that flips and slides open to change the scene with a blink of an eye. Set designer Petrina Dawn Tan’s inventiveness certainly added flavour to a heated scenario and the flawless scene transitions made us wish we could sneak a peek at the show backstage.
The Truth is real. Michael is a gravely flawed person, much like the three other characters that make up this play. Actor Lim Yu-Beng’s performance as the narcissistic protagonist is instantly relatable – aren’t we all guilty of concocting twisted ways of justifying our actions (big or small), even if it is to ourselves? We’ve all talked ourselves into carb heavy midnight snack, cheated on a test guilt-free or even resorted to omissions to make the ‘truth’ more palatable. With Michael, his emotions flip and flop before it inevitably circles back to him. We’d go as far as saying he wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped him in the face (figuratively speaking, of course). Lim Yu-Beng is fascinating (he’s in every scene), hilarious (those punchlines though) and energising. His sitcom-esque portraiture leaves the audience in splits but somehow manages to also leave traces of pity.
Alice, his mistress and Paul’s wife, is played by Cynthia Lee MacQuarrie. She plays a charming, wide-eyed ingenue who finds herself caught between genuine guilt and ugly truths. We liked watching her nature switch – one where she’s woman caught in an unsavoury position and the other where she’s a more assertive doctor, arguably emancipated by her decisions. Even before his appearance on stage, one can’t help but feel sorry for Paul. Coming in halfway through the show, Vivek Gomber takes on the role of this unemployed dejected man with a sombre voice (especially in comparison to Michael’s), droopy body language and straight-faced humour. And then there’s Michael’s wife Lauren, played by Neo Swee Lin. Dressed elegantly and forever lounging, Neo Swee Lin’s spark is undeniable. Her Lauren is poised, persuasive, dishonest and vulnerable at the same time, fueling the rollercoaster that is The Truth.
After you’ve laughed your laugh at the foursome’s soupy situation, The Truth leaves you with a bittersweet aftertaste and a burning question: does absolute honestly liberate or annihilate… and who?
SRT’s The Truth, 3 – 20 April 2019, KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT, 20 Merbau Road Singapore 239035