Edinburgh Fringe 2013
David Leddy presents this dynamic, uplifting escapade about art forgery, castration and blind drunkenness. Liz and Jim are small-time con artists who need £250,000 fast. They decide to become the world’s greatest counterfeiters. There’s only one problem. They can’t paint.
This play is deconstructed; the form is pulled apart, self-aware and self-conscious. We’re introduced to the actors, who will be playing characters, who are real people the playwright David Leddy met in a pub, and this stage manager (who is not an actor) will be reading out the questions he asked when he met them. One of these people was a Glaswegian, one a Londoner, but who was which? They seem to keep swapping their accents. In this fragmented style which questions the nature of truth and authenticity in storytelling, we are told the story of Liz and Jim, forgers, scammers, fakers who are in turn done over because of their grief, trust and greed.
This play is very funny, and the performers are excellent. They have enormous energy and truth. Wendy Seager is blistering as the very three dimensional Liz, who’s life is about finding the next scam, but don’t typecast this one, she is cultured, she likes opera, her house is tasteful. Neil McCormack effectively plays Jim her husband, he is tough but struggling to comes to terms with what it means to be ‘a man’. Whilst still a well-drawn figure, I felt as though Liz was a much more developed character than Jim, as he seemed slightly less substantial and under explored.
What carries this production is really the rip-roaring yarn, a story to rival a Hollywood blockbuster, yet peppered with a raw humanity rarely seen on the silver screen. I very much enjoyed the relationship between Liz and Jim. It was fiery, tempestuous, but also surprisingly tender and loving. So much of this play has been done before – gangsters, art forgery, violence, yet the production felt new and fresh. This is probably in no small part due to the verbatim element – the fact that, incredibly, much of the text is based on a real-life forgery team the playwright David Leddy interviewed. This is where the truth comes from – this is where we find the raw emotion.
There are also deeper questions asked by the production; challenges to the ridiculousness of the art-investment world, so deregulated that the sort of insider trading that would get a banker put in prison is entirely legal. Inquiry into the strange contradiction between forged and real art works and goods – if they both look the same and are made of the same materials, what does it matter who created them?
The piece is well-made, the script is excellent and believable, and the characters fleshy and high-energy. I would highly recommend that you go and see this show, which can be enjoyed on very many levels; whether just as an episode of a crime drama, or as a critique on the nature of art and truth.