Theatre: This is a great play – and I’m not lying

Samantha Bond and Alexander Hanson in The Lie at Menier Chocolate Factory

Florian Zeller, the multi-award-winning French novelist and playwright, is having as big a success on the London stage as he is having in Paris.

In The Lie, Zeller argues there are times when it is better to lie than to tell the truth; and especially so if you are cheating on your husband, wife or lover. The play is a typical French boulevard comedy, very witty, very cynical and very chic. It is acted without interval at Menier Chocolate Factory and lasts 90 minutes.

What would you do if you knew your best friend was being deceived? Would you tell them or would you say nothing? There are dangers and repercussions either way. The husband and wife in this play tell so many outrageous lies that it is impossible for the audience to keep up.

Zeller writes in an elegant and stylish manner which reaches back to the aristocratic artifice of Alfred de Musset in the 19th century and of Marivaux in the 18th. Samantha Bond and Alexander Hanson, husband and wife in real life, are very skilful at high comedy and play off each other beautifully.

James Graham’s Labour of Love at Noël Coward Theatre is a political play about the schism within the Labour Party and the doctrinal infighting which keeps them out of power and makes them perennial losers. The history covers a period from 1990 to the present day and is observed through the lives of a Labour MP, a pragmatic Blairite, and his constituency agent, an idealist on the far Left. They have a sparring relationship, which recalls Beatrice and Benedict in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Martin Freeman is utterly believable in his political commitment and gives one of his best performances. He has considerable charm and there is a delightful moment when he proves he can dance. Tamsin Greig (who took over at very short notice from an indisposed Sarah Lancashire) is totally on top of her role and knows exactly how to deal with the barbed sarcasm which is such an essential feature of Graham’s script.

Simon Stephens’s 90-minute two-hander, Heisenberg: the Uncertainty Principle at Wyndham’s Theatre, is not about the physicist. But he uses as a springboard Heisenberg’s thesis that nature is not predictable. Two strangers, a lively 42-year-old American woman (Anne-Marie Duff) and a dry 75-year-old British man (Kenneth Cranham), who has done nothing with his life, have an encounter in a London railway station which develops into a relationship in which their intentions can never be precisely established. Nothing is inevitable until it happens. The chemistry between the actors is far more convincing than the chemistry between the people they are playing.

On April 21, 1968 at Birmingham’s Midland Hotel, Enoch Powell addressed a Conservative Association meeting and delivered his incendiary “Rivers of Blood” speech which divided Britain in much the same way that the Brexit vote has 50 years later.

Chris Hannan’s purpose in What Shadows at Park Theatre, Finsbury, is not to lambast Powell (a crisp and impressive performance from Ian McDiarmid), who is treated most sympathetically, but to encourage a more open discussion about who as a nation we think we are and where we stand in our views on immigrants.