Rob Drummond's game show-set drama is thunderingly powerful stuff
Here is a simple event. A quiz show called False! The stage is the False! set, with a deliciously kitsch retro feel to it as if Mel and Sue’s Light Lunch had been set in a working men’s club. The audience, while not active participants, are definitely part of the show: there to clap and applaud the live recording.
Steve McNicoll leads the way as floor manager Gerry, breaking the fourth wall and providing an in to the game itself. Its contestants bring their own versions of the clichéd hopefuls who yearn for fame. Paul Thomas Hickey as the geeky Ben, Eileen Walsh as nervous fan Sandra and Gail Watson as groomed reigning champion Molly – on a roll and going for her fifteenth win.
They are here to say the truth. False! is a show where there are no questions, just statements. And every statement is a lie, posed by the cheesily grinning Jonathan Watson as the show’s smarmy host: the living legend, Mr Daniel Caplin. And Watson, for all that he needs a signpost for his television impersonations of famous football figures, is perfect in the role.
This glides along under Hamish Pirie’s direction. He smoothly moves it from the opening quiz show scenes into an altogether more unforgiving territory. And as the play turns to look back from that territory you realise, as an audience member, that your complicity in the process has been there from the beginning, woven into every word of the script.
Thunderingly powerful stuff, which reverberates long after seeing it, and in which every single word counts. This is the sort of dangerous, questioning and beautifully-delivered theatre that the Traverse was made to stage.
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 20 Apr.