Mystery and suspense: a bit of lockdown theatre in your home

KEN TOWL is a little liar. And he’s more than a bit pleased about it, too

I have always liked liars. Society places so much value on truth and the telling of it that we forget that sometimes we need lies as much as we need the truth.

Elizabeth Bower at a Liars’ League event in the Phoenix on Cavendish Square. Photo: Paul Clarke

Understandably so – truth is in short supply these days; lies are all around us and I happily concede that poor liars, those who mislead and obfuscate, those who cannot call a spad a spad, are of little benefit to society.

Great liars, however, like Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway and Julian Barnes, tell us about things that never happened to people who never existed and make us, albeit fleetingly, believe in them.

Where does one go, then, in these strange, locked-down times, to find the best lies?

There was a time, long, long ago, in February if I remember rightly, when you could get yourself up to the Phoenix, a pub on Cavendish Square, where every other month you could pay a fiver to hear six actors each read a piece of new short fiction. At just over 83p a lie the Liars’ League offered value and entertainment.

Closed, for now: the Phoenix, off Oxford Street

Now, of course, the pub doors are closed and (unless you think you are very important) you are expected to stay at home and help to keep yourself and the rest of us safe (assuming this does not conflict with your instinct).

And so, until the Phoenix rises again, the Liars’ League has gone Corona-viral. Instead of going to the pub and paying a fiver, you go to what Facebook likes to call a “watch party” and you pay… nothing.

However, as is the way with these things, you may be encouraged to donate a “drink” to the writers and actors if you feel you have been sufficiently entertained. Leading Liar, university lecturer and author Katy Darby suggests that you probably should if you can. After all, actors need to eat, and indeed drink, and these times have been particularly problematic for those in the live entertainment business.

After a short introduction from your host, lieutenant liar Liam Hogan, in which he explains the format, “… writers write, actors read, audience listens and everyone wins”, you are treated to a sort of grown-up Jackanory. As if that was not enough, there is a further attraction – the quiz. If you are fast of finger (and have a little literary knowledge) you could even win a prize. Indeed every correctly answered question wins, appropriately, a book. The quiz questions are answered by typing them into the text comments that run down the side of the page.

“How do I access this exemplary online literary event?” I imagine you ask. It is easy.

Just go to the Liars’ League Facebook page, and apply to join the group.

At 7.30pm on June 9, next Tuesday, you will be able to join the watch party. The stories tend to take about 10 to 15 minutes each and this month’s theme is “Mystery and Suspense”, featuring, according to the Liars themselves, “An isolated house. A stolen identity. A mind-altering cloud. A powerful witch. A secret murder. A lost treasure. And a naked dwarf.” That is an impressive list of lies.

Although a watch party is a “live event” only in the sense that it is happening at the same time that you consume it, it is not quite the real thing. Perhaps, however, some good can come from the way the arts and entertainment industries have had to adapt to these strange times.

Darby thinks so: “If there’s any cultural silver lining to covid, it’s that I think that more people are consuming more and different entertainment, from books to theatre to live-streamed music, and that their interest … will almost certainly remain long after the virus is history.”

And finally, a declaration of interest. After several attempts, I finally managed to get a piece of my own fiction accepted by the League. Titled “She can look after herself”, it is a tale of mystery and suspense set in lockdown. I have become, at last, a little liar.


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to Mystery and suspense: a bit of lockdown theatre in your home

  1. Shame this event is only accessable for FB users

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