The starting point for Living The Lie is a true story: after twenty years of pretending to be a doctor working for the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Jean-Claude Romand murdered his parents, wife and children and set fire to his house. He failed to kill himself and so was subsequently brought to trial and his story brought to light. As it has already been the subject of a book and two films, I felt free to move away from the facts and explore what interested me in what has become a sort of modern myth. The action takes place in the course of a single evening and the morning after as the tension reaches a paroxysm and becomes unbearable but which in the play is relieved by dark comedy. My character has invented himself a career in advertising, trying desperately to keep up appearances in a society obsessed with image. His deeply dysfunctional marriage is intertwined with that of another, apparently more “normal” couple. But how normal is “normal”? What separates the sane from the insane? How deep are the cracks in the façade of normality? How different are we the audience from the characters on stage?
Evening. Marc, Jean, Laurence and Carole come out of the house.
MARC A bubble?
JEAN A bubble, yes. Brilliant, isn’t it?
LAURENCE Marc… That was very nice, Carole.
MARC What? I didn’t say anything.
LAURENCE I’ve got nothing against frozen food, I’m all for it. It’s lovely here.
JEAN For an advertising agency? It says it all.
LAURENCE No, really. Beautiful weather too. We never even see the sun at our place… All what?
JEAN No but, a bubble, what does it bring to mind?
JEAN Exactly! Soap, washing powder, that’s our roots. That’s where it all started.
MARC So what?
JEAN But not only that. Bubbles equal champagne, parties, luxury!
LAURENCE That’s true. Where’s Jérôme gone? Has he gone up to his room? Must be boring for him.
JEAN They’re beautiful, fragile, ephemeral – just like life…
LAURENCE He seems a nice boy. Doesn’t have much to say, but he seems nice…
JEAN And then, think of comic strips. Bubbles are for speech, language, thought.
MARC Schlak kerpow…
LAURENCE Takes after his mother…
JEAN What is a bubble? It’s a transparent protective film. And what’s inside it?
JEAN Yes well, there’s air. Oxygen.
LAURENCE We should have brought the girls. Would have been more fun for Jérôme.
MARC So according to you advertising is life?
JEAN Well, it’s my life anyway. And it’s the same for Giorgio.
LAURENCE Do you know him well?
JEAN I gave him the title for his book.
MARC “Lying for a living”?
JEAN And I had my say for the new firm too.
LAURENCE You told him to leave? But he was doing so well.
JEAN Of course. But it was stifling us. We were stuck in a rut of preconceptions. Jean-Jacques could sell fridges to Eskimos but when it comes to striking out….
LAURENCE Jean-Jacques Weinstein?
JEAN Weinstein, yes. He’s nobody’s fool but he just lacks that little something extra…
LAURENCE You call them all by their Christian names…
JEAN That little something that Giorgio’s got that separates genius from mere mortals…
MARC What about you?
MARC Have you got that little something extra?
JEAN Giorgio’s the one that’s got that.
MARC You’re not a genius then?
JEAN I should have thought you were aware of that by now.
MARC Oh, I don’t know, I got everything else wrong, so….
LAURENCE But what do you have against Weinstein?
JEAN We don’t have anything against him. He is what he is. He’s not an artist.
MARC And Bruni is?
LAURENCE What’s he got that the others haven’t?
JEAN I consider Giorgio to be the greatest artist of our times.
MARC We get the artists we deserve.
JEAN The others are artisans. Craftsmen. Giorgio is a visionary. Who said advertising should be only about selling? Why should everything be reduced to a message? Giorgio said to me one day, he said, “Jeannot…”
LAURENCE He calls you Jeannot?
JEAN He said, “Listen.”
LAURENCE Like the rabbit…
JEAN “We’ve worked for the market economy, we’ve done our bit for the politicians, it’s time to break free from the yoke of utilitarianism. We have to shrug off the shackles of salesmanship. No brand, no message! Communication for communication’s sake!” He’s brilliant. With his accent it’s even better.
MARC But what does it mean?
JEAN It means we won’t be working for anyone any more. We won’t be trying to get anything across. We just do it because we do it. That’s all there is to it.
LAURENCE But how will that make you any money?
JEAN It won’t. That’s the beauty of it. It’s a luxury we can afford. Don’t worry, Giorgio’s got his head screwed on. He’s keeping his shares in the old agency.
LAURENCE But you’ll be working in this…
JEAN That’s where the future lies, I’m convinced of it. Giorgio and I go back a long way. I trust him.
MARC Does he trust you?