A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!




King’s Head Theatre presents


The Truth-Teller


Tom Radford as Jonathan with Martha Barnett as Mary  in THE TRUTH-TELLER 


by David Crook


Directed by Svetlana Dimcovic


King’s Head Theatre


9 April – 6 May 2012



Set amidst black, peeling paper, reminiscent of a garage, with tired looking shelving and some very out-of-date foodstuffs and cigarette packets, the action for David Crook’s comedy The Truth Teller flits between Jonathan and Mary’s North London flat, psychiatrist’s reception, consulting room and local corner shop. Yet with the best attempts at suspended disbelief and magic ifs this is a big ask for performers and audience alike. The context is confusing.

The plot is simple enough. Jonathan (Tom Radford) tells lies, whoppers. While Mary (Martha Barnett), his girlfriend at the end of her tether, begs for ‘a silent relationship…a ‘Trappist passion.’ She urges him to go to ‘someone who can help’ – Shane (Gary Cady). So Jonathan trots off to be cured. But you can’t kid a kidder, right? Wrong! Jonathan accepts at face-value everything: Shane’s smiling, Phillip Schofield demeanour, Lucy’s chain-smoking receptionist, Shane’s casual dress, Lucy’s pushed-up bra and lace-top stockings.

Everybody in this play is deluded: Mary in her relationship with Jonathan; Jonathan in his compulsion to tell lies, his ‘mental crack.’ Lucy that she is more than eye candy with references to St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, Shane, proponent of Kant, part-shaman, part-showman. And Sasrutha, a Sri-Lankan shop keeper who owes a deal of money on 6,000 Black Russian Sobraines. Nothing is as it seems. Yet the only marked theatrical change is Sasrutha’s shirt from stained white to Hawaii-Green, as fire flips his fortunes.

The acting is pumped up from the beginning, and this is a shame as much is missed, though Sammy Kissin as Lucy and Naveed Khan as Sasrutha inhabit this Ortonesque world successfully. And there’s more than a passing nod to What the Butler Saw in ‘The Truth Teller’s’ bogus clinical practice, its black humour, its critique of social and sexual mores and its increasingly farcical situation. ‘You don’t know what a turn-on the truth is to me,’ says Mary.

The pill-popping Sasrutha, prostrate with a nose bleed, is in humourous juxtapositions as Jonathan expounds enthusiastically on his new life of truth without compulsion, but these moments are few and far between. He is ‘born again’ under Shane’s hypnosis, but literal truth, without its softening conventional edge, builds a social outcast, a misfit. And we see how much we all need lies to survive and make life just a bit more bearable.  

David Crook’s comedy needs sharp delineation to bring out its acerbic humour. Immanuel Kant, German philosopher, pronounced with a Cu – it changes everything, proposed three maxims. Universality of actions: unless everybody does it, don’t do it. Never lie under any circumstances. And you are the moral authority of the entire universe……but don’t take my word for it, go and judge The Truth Teller yourself…....


Naveed Khan as Sasrutha, Martha Barnett as Mary, Tom Radford as Jonathan in THE TRUTH-TELLER 


King's Head Theatre
Upper Street N1
Tuesday 31 January – Saturday 3 March 2012
Tuesday – Saturday 7.15pm, Sunday 3.00pm
All seats £10.00


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