Duke of York Theatre until 26th March and then tour!
The Father | Review
Such was the success of The Father at the Ustinov Studio in Bath and the Wyndam’s Theatre in London, it has been nominated for several Olivier awards next month including Best Play. The Father has recently opened again at the Duke of York Theatre in London for a strictly limited season before it embarks on a short tour.
Seeing the world through the eyes of someone with Alzheimer’s disease is an ambitious subject to tackle, but French novelist and playwright Florian Zeller has written a incredible piece which illustrates perfectly the confusion and fear of a dementia sufferer by transporting the audience into his terrifying world.
Kenneth Cranham reprises his role as André, an elderly gentleman living with his daughter Anne (Amanda Drew). We soon see a rift in their relationship, she wants to get on with her life and move to London with her partner but feels that she cannot go without securing proper care for her Father. André objects to this intrusion and is very unhappy about being cared for by anyone other than Anne.
At first André seems mildly eccentric, coherent and fiercely independent but it is not long before his problems are apparent. As each short scene rolls by, the timeline becomes sketchy and unordered. New unnamed characters are introduced who André doesn’t recognise and as dialogue is repeated it becomes unclear as to who said what and when and what is reality and what isn’t. Momentarily you even mistrust Anne’s intentions, but then realise you are just experiencing Andre’s paranoia.
Kenneth Cranham has rightly been nominated an Olivier for his role as André, and my money is on him. He depicts the terrifying dissent into confusion and fear perfectly which is morbidly compelling to watch. Amanda Drew is also phenomenal as Anne she balances the frustrations of caring for someone who constantly rejects her with the guilt that she is failing her Father by asking for help.
Zeller’s writing is extraordinary. Although the relationship between father and daughter is fractured and fraught it is made worse by the clear knowledge that it will never improve because the evil is the devastating dementia. As their relationship slowly disintegrates so does the set, items of furniture cleverly disappear, unnoticed at first then gathering speed until eventually we are left with an empty space, symbolic of Andre’s broken mind.
I was entirely captivated by this play, as a former carer myself, Zeller has acquired a marvellous understanding of the confusion and fear of both father and daughter faced with coping with this terrible disease. It is superb writing and I found it emotionally tasking. I came out of the theatre a wrung out mess, but wholeheartedly recommend this incredible play.
Reviewer : Sammi O’Neill
Photo (c) Mark Douet.
The Father continues at the Duke of York Theatre until 26th March 2016 before embarking on a tour which includes the Theatre Royal Brighton