Lie with Me – An exciting new perspective on the question of feminine agency. (Theatre Review)

Lie With Me

Brave New Word Theatre Company

2 – 13 October You can grab your tickets here.

Mary Daly suggests in her 1978 book Gyn/Ecology that just as it may take a village to raise it child, it naturally follows that it takes a village to distort and retard the mind of a child. In her passionately and intelligently wild ode to this concept, Liz Hobart has her three female characters vacillate and fishtail (fishtale) an energetic portrayal of one woman’s existence evoked in response to societal stimulus. True to concept, Lie with Me has been devised in tandem with all the creatives involved in the project, drawing a portrait of the mind of one woman thrust into a media storm after her son commits a terrible crime. Moving beyond the idea of blame and cause, this production instead examines the maelstrom of stimulus we all live under that, if anything, prevents understanding. Director Warwick Doddrell, alongside performers Lyn Pierse, Nathalie Murray and Julie Roberts contribute to a cohesive whole that reflects the (in)famous Lepage and Mcburney efforts with Theatre Complicite – that is, an energy of “last minute” that is devised theatre. Devised theatre ends rather than starts with text, but there is no mistaking the creativity of a feminist voice at the throbbing heart of Lie With Me that draws us into a psyche where a fully functioning human is nothing other than a collection of responses to stimuli. Rather than politically motivated, Liz Hobart informs in the most interesting ways.

The woman at the centre of the throng in Lie With Me is a mother reflecting on her life. A life that produced a child that took the lives of other women’s children. In a twisted reverse the woman is born from the actions of her son as demonic patterns embedded in the culture implant in her soul. With a special emphasis on media, we are reminded that soul commentary (priests and gurus) mind commentary (psychiatrists, advertisers and academia) and body commentary (physicians, taste-makers and patriarchal religious females) become hostile to her peace of mind. That she didn’t perform the crimes is irrelevant – she loves her child, and this is impossible to reconcile. A beautiful juxtaposition between the responses of the father (capitalize on fame and opportunity) and the responses of the mother (guilt, frustration and chronically ill-informed self-examination) cause one parent to soar while another sinks in desperation. As we understand from feminist readings, society insists a woman turn her emancipation against herself if her child is assumed to suffer from ‘it’ in any way. Liz Hobart makes it clear that we don’t know why some people in society becomes monsters. Yet despite this, we insist mothers take the blame. In a stunning scene at the play’s climax, our Mother claims a freedom that is subsequently stripped from her in the most heartless way. The only person who should be sacrificed for a child’s freedom is the mother. And if she is not sacrificed, who knows what that child might do?

Yet, this emancipation is only ever escape, which is reactionary and therefore dependent upon its opposite. Liz Hobart, and through her Warwick Doddrell bring to light a first step one woman must take in a process of active voicing. While we understand the becoming Self of she who is always Other means a discovery of Otherworld. In the mish mash of stimuli, she is retained. Otherworld is a place about which we know nothing, but Lie With Me posits a hope of this against the emptiness of a vessel constantly prone to stimuli. Lie With Me acts as a kind of positive paranoia that functions to dispel the power of prevailing myths and symbols, a power which depends partly on their hiddenness. The connections of patriarchal mythologies to the woman’s daily experience are masked. Inside Warwick Doddrell’s chaos acceptable foregrounds patterns usually foisted upon us are distorted or absent and therefore broken. This is further emphasized in the way Sophie Pekbilimli constructs her lighting dialogue and the way Warwick Doddrell positions characters conversations into the ether. We are invited to see patterns imposed upon our own way of thinking, imagining, acting, perceiving and speaking and the hidden “plots” of patriarchal settings emerge. Isabella Andronos’ pared down set and design further enhance this revelation. Then this new perception allows us a certain freedom as we move further from the intricate maze that houses our lives. If Liz Howards words evoke and personalize the maze, it is the construction and design of the production and direction itself that evokes the transparency required to see it for what it is. As we are amazed, the spell of the underlying lies, symbols and myths are broken. We see the feeble derivative character and we recognize the important pattern of reversal.

This production of Lie With Me is a superb incarnation of Liz Hobart’s excellent work and a true credit to all those involved. A huge shout out to Brave New Word theatre company for bringing such an exciting new work to vibrant life and to the 505 Theatre for making such a perfect space for creatives to extend into new ideas. The lo-fi energy of Lie With Me allows the production to extend out far beyond its financial limitations and energises all of us to what is possible beyond the drama and dullness of daily constraints. This is a very clever production that establishes Liz Hobart as a significant writer to watch and gives further currency to the stellar work of Warwick Doddrell.