True Love Lies
St James Cavalier

Sexual politics have always been complicated and, until recently, this complexity used to be kept under rigidly-tight wraps: avoiding uncomfortable conflict and confrontation in favour of a perfect façade.

The contemporary scene, however, has brought with it a different way of viewing things and has a habit of unearthing past mischief which would have been better off buried… or so one could think.

Brad Fraser’s excellent play, True Love Lies, explores just this: the love, romantic and otherwise, which one person can have for another, beyond sexual orientation and the constructs of family ties.

Unifaun Theatre’s production of Fraser’s work, whose witty and equally poignant script provided the cast with some very powerful core material, is currently running at St James Cavalier until early November; and is not to be missed.

Sometimes, valuing yourself and your needs before those of your loved ones can make for a better balanced interaction and eventual sense of care towards others

Fraser’s weighted silences, rising tension and awkward one-liners are interspersed with dry humour and witty observations about love and life which draw the audience into the characters’ world effortlessly because of their organic development.

Director Toni Attard put together a great cast: wisely choosing actors whose vocal control and stage dynamic helped create a seamless, fast-paced peace which was quietly reflective in all the right places.

His choice of staging and sensitivity to the text made the most of both the script and the performers’ abilities, while Romualdo Moretti’s clean and modern set design and Chris Gatt’s lighting design helped to make the piece more cohesive.

It was, however, the acting itself which made the play the highly watchable and powerful piece it was.

A very controlled, if at times soft-spoken, Jes Camilleri played Kane, the loyal and loving family man married to Carolyn (Pia Zammit). Kane and Carolyn’s perfectly constructed family bubble comes crashing down when their daughter Madison (Bettina Paris) meets a prospective employer called David (Ray Calleja) whose path had crossed Kane’s in the distant, murky past.

Camilleri’s portrayal of Kane gave his character equal measures of dignity and honesty, which matched Zammit’s Carolyn’s controlled and nuanced performance, who freely admits to having been the cause of the breakdown in Kane’s past romantic relationship with David. She defines herself as ‘the other woman’ in her husband’s early burgeoning sexual exploration and attempts to navigate this newly-opened can of worms as best she can to help alleviate its impact on their two children – 21-year-old Madison and the teenage Royce (Joe Azzopardi).

Understandably shaken by these revelations about their father’s past sexual proclivities, the two children react very differently to the situation: from Madison’s rebellious nature and her semi-destructive promiscuity, to Royce’s self-esteem and depression brought on by bullying and a sensation of not fitting in.

Paris has been going from strength to strength in her stage work recently and gave a fiery, emotionally charged and mature performance as a confused young adult trying to navigate life beyond the teenage years, while Azzopardi’s stellar performance as Royce had the audience in the palm of his hand.

Royce’s self-deprecating comments and his snarky teenage attitude were captured effortlessly by Azzopardi, whose portrayal of a troubled teen came across as natural and credible – refreshingly unforced.

The family these actors portrayed may have been dysfunctional but their dynamic on stage was spot on.

So too were their encounters with Calleja’s David, whose complex relationship with Carolyn and Kane, his lingering interest in Kane and his self-doubt are counterbalanced by a strength of character and self-discipline which keep him as hard as nails in the face of some of the more disturbing events in the course of the play.

His honesty with the other four characters and the way in which he actually deals with them and their insecurities, made for a difficult but rewarding character to play – which Calleja, who has recently begun to make a stage comeback, managed to interpret incredibly well.

In uncovering past lies, the characters also discover truths about themselves. Their personal journey is enriched by the knowledge that true love is about individuals finding themselves drawn by other individuals, irrespective of their sexuality – and that sometimes, valuing yourself and your needs before those of your loved ones can make for a better balanced interaction and eventual sense of care towards others.

All this because personal peace and satisfaction are achieved first – making it easier to deal with other people’s emotional baggage and attachment.

True Love Lies certainly achieves this, in no small part thanks to the fine acting all round, making it definitely one of this season’s must-see productions.

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