Our Private Life, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London

Reviewed,Paul Taylor
Wednesday 02 March 2011 01:00

One of the hottest tickets in Theatreland at the moment is The Children's Hour with Keira Knightley, but Our Private Life, by Colombian author Pedro Miguel Rozo, knocks spots off Lillian Hellman's 1934 analysis of the destructive effects of false rumour. It has the wonderfully frisky, darkly droll elan of an early Almodóvar movie and shows how scandal can flush out discomfiting underlying truths.

The play has all the hallmarks of the Royal Court's excellent International Department. With both Simon Scardifield's wittily knowing translation and Lyndsey Turner's immaculately acted production, you feel that you are being taken out into valuably unfamiliar cultural territory and, at the same time, invited deeper into your own unacknowledged experience.

The play homes in on village life in a Colombia uneasily balanced between its terrorist past and a future of garish new shopping centres. Anthony O'Donnell's seedily subdued Father finds himself accused of fiddling with the neglected male child of a female farm-hand. For his compulsive-fantasist gay son (brilliant Colin Morgan), this constitutes proof that there must have been abuse in his own childhood. Cashing in on the lucrative "doubt" that is flooding Colombia as it "leaves the dark of the parochial church behind" is Adrian Schiller's dodgy shrink who promotes paranoia because he has his sights set on a Grand Cherokee jeep.

Ishia Bennison is hilarious as the mother who struggles to paper over the family crevasses with bright prattle. The cast excel at conveying private asides that are somehow porous to the other characters. The final scene, in which we learn the devastating way in which there is a degree of truth in these lies, is one of the most breathtaking sequences on the current London stage.

To 12 March (020 7565 5000)

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