A LIE OF THE MIND
by Sam Shepard
Donmar Warehouse, Covent Garden. To 1 September 2001
Runs 2 hours 55 mins. Two intervals
Tickets 020 7369 1732
Review Timothy Ramsden 2 August 2001
Bravura performances in classy Shepard revival.
The supercharged reality of Shepard’s America is a world as distinctive as those of Jacobean tragedy, melodrama, or film noir: A Lie is full of crime genre trademarks. Its acts have in turn an urgent ‘phone message about a presumed homicide, a shooting and a revelation of a past killing, while everyone’s locked into their own obsessions. And the whole action flares out of Andy Serkis’s Jake not distinguishing reality from fiction in jealousy of his actress wife Beth (Catherine McCormack).
His brother Frankie (Peter McDonald) is nearest to reason. And he ends up wounded, trapped and set for forcible marriage to Beth. This despite Jake being alive, if not well, having travelled several hundred miles in remorse, not to mention bare feet and no trousers, to see the Beth he’d left battered and brain-damaged.
Even motherhood, that totem of U.S. virtue, sours into possessiveness. Rejecting her passive daughter (Nicola Walker), Jake’s mother Lorraine (Sinead Cusack) wants her boy back, telling him he need never again leave his boyhood bedroom, surrounded by old toys and his father’s ashes. As Beth’s mother Meg Anna Calder-Marshall is a descendant of the morphine-addicted Mary Tyrone in O’ Neill’s Long Day’s Journey. Only, in Shepard there’s no morphine, just Meg’s dreamy all’s well world where no swearing and making coffee are the supreme realities.
Beth’s brother Mike (Andrew Tiernan) begins balanced enough but he’s soon swallowed by rage against his brothers in law. That’s nothing to his father Baylor (a growling Keith Bartlett fresh from the French wars with the RSC), a determined deerhunter who rubs shoe oils on his feet and pays tribute to the American flag while his fellow Americans are bleeding around him.
Wilson Milam’s production has no star because it’s all-star, building Shepard’s world in every loving, curdled detail.