The painful path of age

The Father

Malvern Theatres

****

DEMENTIA is a tough subject to address at any time and this provocative, intelligent piece of theatre doesn't shy away from the awkward agony of such an illness.

Although brief, it's an unforgettable award-winning play that haunts you well after leaving the theatre. It gradually grows more uncomfortable over 90 minutes, particularly for anyone with ageing parents.

Writer Florian Zeller takes the audience into the disorientated mind of dementia patient Andre by juxtaposing snapshots of his relationship with his daughter Anne in varying time order.

Much of it doesn't seem logical, like missing furniture and changing actors, until it suddenly all clicks into place towards the final scenes. Kenneth Cranham givesThe Father an outstanding performance as likeable Andre, despite some of the harsh, bristling comments to his daughter. He is compelling from start to finish and no more so than in the final moving moments of the play.

Claire Skinner and Kenneth Cranham

Claire Skinner, taking a break from starring as the hard-done-by mother in BBC1's Outnumbered is the hard-done-by daughter in The Father. She's a study in a woman slowly losing her patience and composure.

This French piece of theatre has been translated by Christopher Hampton and thankfully it doesn't lose the essence of such a challenging, emotional topic.

Although, while it may be described as a black comedy, there are very few laughs, and it would be more pertinent to put it in the category of an emotional family drama.

Zeller, has been described as ‘one of the hottest literary talents in France’. The Father, originally titled Le Père , was the recipient of three Molière Awards in 2014, including for Best New Play.

When describing this work, Zeller said he wanted the audience to "become lost in this mental labyrinth - so as to experience more completely, from the inside, the tragedy of old age".

He has definitely achieved that, and although it sometimes makes for difficult viewing, it's a play that should be seen. To 20-06-15

Alison Brinkworth

16-06-15 

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