Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 7 Jun, then touring
Scottish travelling songs and family secrets are revealed together in Davey Anderson’s play for young adults, which explores the difficulties people have when they are required to tell the truth. On their first day of summer holidays, ten-year-olds Lizzie and Stevie spy a silver-haired old woman with a caravan across the canal. The woman’s unlikely appearance sparks Lizzie’s curiosity, which intensifies when her mother Sheila tells her not to go near the woman. Lizzie tells her first lie when she crosses the canal at the sound of Jeanie’s singing. Other lies are told in succession as a relationship between Lizzie and Jeanie develops, and an old truth is eventually uncovered.
Narrated at an energetic pace, Liar focuses on the historical tensions between travellers and settled people. With such serious issues, Anderson chooses to challenge rather than merely amuse his young audience. The full Scottish cast is accompanied by an a cappella trio who break into bits of song whenever the tension rises. Anderson skillfully matches the tenor of the music to the intensity of the dialogue. Images of canals, campfires and beaches are also expertly conjured on the blank stage. As Lizzie, Ashley Smith gives a buoyant and sincere performance, whereas Jim Sturgeon as both Stevie and Lizzie’s dad provides the play’s much needed comic relief. The audience remains captivated by the actors’ constant rotation around the blank stage, as if to show all sides of the story. Rarely has a play about dishonesty been so truthful about human behaviour.