Lies Have Been Told

Norwich Playhouse

Norwich Playhouse

Robert Maxwell - flamboyantly successful businessman, distinguished war veteran or lying, fat crook? The fact that he was all of these things is the conundrum at the heart of this compelling one-man show based on the life of the disgraced tycoon.

First glimpsed angrily dismissing telephone calls in his lair-like office, Philip York is magnificently the living embodiment of the man, glugging champagne and spitting flecks of Beluga caviar as he recounts the pivotal moments of his life.

We learn of his impoverished childhood, the massacre of his family by the Nazis and his subsequent tenacity as both soldier and Machiavellian operator. And all the while, with a wryly lifted eyebrow here and a forlorn mop of the forehead there, he draws us, the audience, in as willing co-conspirators in the vener-ation of his self-constructed myth.

Rod Beacham's script has been criticised for portraying Maxwell in an overly sympathetic light. Inasmuch as it is a witty imagining of a complex, controversial personality's own assessment of himself, the charge stands up. However, this is hardly a flaw in what is, after all, a dramatisation, not a trial.

For anyone whom Maxwell deprived of their pension this play may understandably stick in the craw - otherwise, it is a superbly entertaining achievement.