Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

The venue is not the most comfortable but this play is a well constructed and  pleasant little encounter which  feels like a  modern fairy tale bolstered up by arguments that suggest  strong moral fibre. Not that one looks for moral lessons at the theatre, even less so at the Fringe. Thus the subject matter of Five Lies is rather  a surprise.

Mark is standing on the edge of a roof, looking down at the city below. At first it’s  not obvious what he has in mind but as soon as a slightly motherly “guardian” angel, known as Phyllis, appears , asking him, in a very matter of fact way..what are you thinking!!  It becomes obvious.

There is a  twist here and that is what  makes this interesting.  Phyllis who calls herself a “Universal Servant” representing  a more contemporary version of someone who works for what used to be called God, is also something similar to  a Fairy Godmother offering three wishes. In our times of financial crisis however,  “wishes” have become  too expensive. So the universal organization offers Five lies to those who decide to rethink their drastic decision and  turn their lives around. .

As soon as the pact is signed, the person can wish for five lies that will make his or her life easier and Phyllis will always be around in case of emergencies.

And there begins the fun because no matter how hard he tries, Mark does not find  lying  easy to do

Not only has he  been brought up not to lie, but  often,  lies are not what you might think. They even seem to inspire honnesty  because often, lies are an essential part of good human relations.  This moral tale is actually quite amusing! The arrival of Milly at the end sets off a new cycle of guardian angels for the “five lies programme” , showing that it is a very useful set up indeed and that human beings need  such strategies to makes human relations bearable.

This is not a riotous comedy, it is not a sexy shocker, it is not a harrowing drama. It’s a sweet, relaxing  play that will make you feel good. It evokes arguments about God and religion that it obviously cannot deal with in any depth, given the movement of the story and the short time frame of the presentation but the actors  are all perfectly competent, director Paul Dervis has done what is to be expected  and the evening worked well.  There is a  Newfoundland band blasting away on the upper floor but actually,  you can barely hear the pub music from downstairs.

Adam Skanks, a regular of the NORT company in Ottawa, as the astonished young Mark, evolves  perfectly through different moments in his life.   Kate Charles (Phyllis) is a product of the Ottawa School of Speach and Drama, as is writer Edith Bramwell. The level of their work shows us that these training schools are producing solid professionals who must now do as much acting and / or writing  as possible to get more  experience. A short appearance by budding playwright and actress Jessica Anderson  (a grad of the Queens University drama programme and the Algonquin Script writing programme ) has an aura of Greta Garbo about her. Strange indeed. This in your face role she plays here has nothing to do with Garbo but one gets the feeling that Anderson has other possibilities..She must explore them.

If you are tired of all the off the wall stuff, this bit of good writing and acting will be a welcome relief.

Five Lies plays for 2 more nights downstairs at the Royal Oak on Laurier.

Five Lies

by Edith Bramwell

Directed by Paul Dervis


Jesssica Anderson  (Milly)

Kate Charles (Phyllis)

Adam Skanks (Mark)

downstairs at the  Royal Oak on Laurier Ave