Friday, 18 March 2016

'The Father' - Duke of York's Theatre - Tuesday 8th March 2016

(Rated 5/5 )
Is it 'very sensible' - to use the words of my mother - to go see a play about old age and the gradual loss of a parent be it physically or mentally, when you have just recently lost one of your own - and 2 days before scattered their ashes - and with that parent's sister? As usual I am not someone to shy away from anything challenging like that - I am not one to be 'sensible' to protect myself emotionally, and neither is my aunt, my companion on this occasion. And whilst I did have some concern about how 'devastating' this production may feel - especially given some previous reviews - in the event I was interested, fascinated and even entertained rather than devastated. Saddened yes but also encouraged to smile and be amused at points during the performance. 
The Father is written unelaborately and extremely cleverly by Florian Zeller. He writes from the perspective of his title character, Andre, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. As Zeller says theatre 'holds a mirror up to its audience, allowing us to recognise and understand ourselves a little better… I was keen that on this particular journey we shouldn't only be spectators, that we too should become lost in this mental labyrinth - so as to experience more completely, from the inside, the tragedy of old age and that fragility to life which makes us all equal'. I felt I was trying to solve a puzzle - the same puzzle as Andre was, which enabled empathy in a way almost impossible from the outside. Kenneth Cranham was very convincingly lost, confused, distressed and vulnerable acting full on to the point of giving us genuine concern for his sake at the end that he wouldn't do himself permanent damage. Amanda Drew acted with great sensitivity experiencing and conveying so many of the challenging and conflicting emotions we would all feel as the caring/er and trapped daughter in such circumstances. The leads were beautifully supported by their fellow actors. The staging, lighting and sound effects played the biggest supporting role in a sense by not supporting or helping. We experience increased loss of sense and memory in and of Andre's world as furniture is gradually moved or changed around. The music introducing each scene sounded at times like a broken record covered in dust - can't quite sound the right note, recall the right memory and trying to play it over and over to grasp something lost beneath jumble and damage.
Profoundly powerful theatre so true to life.

I highly recommend The Duke of York's Theatre. It feels more intimate than many of the older theatres and has the most caring and friendly staff I have ever experienced. Even though I decided not to take up the offer of moving seats to the Royal Circle to save me having to descend and climb stairs - I wanted to be in the stalls right up close and personal with the actors - I really appreciated the care and attention to my disability needs.

The Father – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2016