Lelio Bisognosi is a hip 60’s dude, footloose and fancy free, stepping it out in downtown Venice Beach where it’s cool to be far out. But, he is a liar. He does not mean it. He cannot help it.  He just cannot tell the truth. He’s left a cute girl, Cleonice, back in Rome.  He promised her the world, said he would marry her. But he split just in time and left her behind, or so he thinks.

Meanwhile, Florindo is madly in love with Rosaura, but he’s never told her. He’s not stupid; he’s just too shy. And…Ottavio is in love with Beatrice, and she is in love with him. But, she cannot marry Ottavio until Rosaura is married. Uncool.

Then, Lelio arrives and starts telling lies…that the love song and love poem Florindo has written for Rosaura was actually written by him. That he loves her, has adored her for a year. That he’s a Neopolitan nobleman.  And, then, everything starts to go really, really, really wrong…man.

This was the world of our recent Senior School production of Liar! Liar! - an adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s Italian comedy, Il Bugiardo (The Liar), first performed in the 1750-51 season at the Teatro Sant' Angelo in Venice. Italy. Goldoni was a master comic writer with sixteen comedies to his credit.  The Liar is one of Goldoni’s lesser known plays; he is perhaps best known for his comic masterpiece, The Servant of Two Masters (performed here at Geelong Grammar School as the Senior School Play in 2007 – with a boyish Will Bamford (M, 2009) beginning his brilliant run of leading roles as Truffaldino, the ‘servant’). An adaptation of that play, One Man, Two Guvnors, was a smash hit at the National Theatre in London in 2011, transferring to the West End and then to Broadway in 2012. In 2013, the National Theatre toured Australia with this same production. Wit, irreverence, confusion and deception are the hallmarks of Goldoni’s work - as can be seen in The Liar.

We reworked and re-contextualised The Liar into Liar!Liar! (pants on fire..!), shifting the setting from 18th century Venice, Italy, to Venice Beach, California, a few months before the Woodstock Festival in August 1969. The story revolves around the lies of Lelio Bisognosi (Will Devilee, Yr 11 FB) as he returns to Venice Beach after many years away in Italy (so many that his father, Pantalone (Barton Lowe, Yr10 Fr) does not – at first – recognise him) with his offsider, Arlecchino (Andrew Nicholas, Yr10 M). He attracts the attention of two groovy sisters, Beatrice (Emma Darling, Yr11 Cl) and Rosaura (Alex Cash, Yr11 Ga), and immediately begins to work his tricky magic, inventing himself as a Neopolitan nobleman: Don Asdrubale, dell’Acqua Minerale San Pellegrino e Pasta Carbonara, Marquess of Castel d'Oro. One of many extravagant lies.

However, Rosaura and Beatrice already have admirers: Florindo (Harry von Bibra, Yr11 Cu) – a doctor in the employ of the girls’ father, Doctor Balanzoni (Luca Brew, Yr11 Cu) – is in love with Rosaura and yet is too shy to reveal his love; Ottavio (Jack Hill, Yr11 P) is in love with Beatrice, but cannot marry her until Rosaura – the older sister – is taken off the doctor’s hands.

Added to this mix were an excitable servant Columbina (Bridget Sharp, Yr12 He) who falls for the inventive Arlecchino, and an irritable - and, for some reason, French - Brighella (Isabella Froebel, Yr11 Ga) crazed by the shy and irritating Florindo. A whole collection of Venetian Beach onlookers were transfixed by Lelio’s shocking deceptions: Andrew Dixson (Yr12 Cu) was a cantankerous cab-driver; Levi Tanner (Yr12 M) was an opportunistic postman; Mathilda Harley (Yr11 Cl) and Katie Clingeleffer-Woodford (Yr11 Fr) ran the adorable little onstage-diner – and kept a score of Lelio’s lies; Grace Creati (Yr10 Fr) and Anna Parsons (Yr10 Ga) were two guitar-strumming daisy-wearing free spirits; Michelle Eddington (Yr12 EM), Katherine Russell (Yr12 Cl) and Erin Nicolson (Yr12 Fr) played Bianca, Cleonice and Sophia – glamorous Romans all suffering broken hearts and in urgent need of revenge; Lewis Nicolson (Yr10 Fr), Eloise Winchester (Yr10 He) and Sam Seccombe (Yr10 FB) were all drapers’ assistants with a keen and disapproving sense of style; Lachlan Kearns (Yr10 M) found Lelio’s lies a constant source of amazement, whilst Freya Johnson (Yr11 He) and Annabel MacDonald (Yr10 He) struggled with their attraction for the cute – but incredibly devious – Lelio.

This was a happy production and a wonderfully collaborative cast – in spite of episodes of serious illness, interruptions to the rehearsal process and the usual moments of sheer hilarity and overwhelming panic. We did consider having a bus waiting outside the theatre, with its engines running, just in case we needed to rush out of the theatre, mid-performance, and just drive for the border – but we did not need to. We are so blessed to have such resilient, talented, creative and committed students to work with, and with whom we truly share the long, arduous hours of rehearsal, experimentation, problem-solving, and nuttiness. Sometimes it’s all terrifying, but most of the time, it is an absolute joy.

Funnily enough, we were not reviewed by The Age or the Herald Sun, and we have not gone viral; however, here are some appreciative words from members of our audience.

I loved this production! I really enjoyed watching this. I don’t teach any of the students in the cast, so many were newish faces to me. I was so impressed by the talent. The cast kept their acting roles going the whole time along with a fast pace of delivery. It meant we, as an audience, were swept along with the drama and action. A very entertaining night.The cast and crew deserve a terrific audience. The set and costumes, music and lighting were all wonderful.

Lyn Bouvier
Teaching Staff; Assistant Head of EM

I have to say how good the play was last night … great casting, students did amazingly well … lots of laughs … Well done to everyone! Absolutely sensational!

Debbie Clingeleffer-Woodford
Director of Learning

Thank you for the commitment, zeal, enthusiasm and passion. Thank you for giving up your time to entertain the audience. Thank you for performing so well. Thank you for giving your all on the first night. Thank you for making me walk home with a smile on my face! A 1960’s hippy fest! Incredibly clever and brought back memories for me. The music was so groovy! A great effort was made by you all. I often shake my head in amazement trying to figure out how you manage to put on a 90 minute production on top of everything else you do at this School.

Charlie Scudamore
Deputy Principal

Last night we saw the show Liar!Liar! and really enjoyed it. From the acting to the sets and the makeup, it was all great and the students did a terrific job. Enjoy a well-earned rest over the holidays!

Fiona and Norm Lowe
Parents of Barton Lowe (Pantalone)

Liar! Liar! was a triumph! I enjoyed it all so much, and there were so many wonderful moments and performances. Many congratulations!

Michael Collins Persse

Michelle Badior
Head of Drama