Touring – reviewed at Birmingham Rep
A phenomenal and innovative piece which it would have been a travesty to have missed. Actor Kenneth Cranham demonstrated just why he won that Best Actor gong at this year’s Olivier Awards. Florian Zeller’s play, translated by Christopher Hampton, is a masterpiece and not only highlights dementia from a carer’s and family member’s point of view, but the journey that it takes the sufferer on.
A clever approach applied to the set and the structure of the piece, dialogue, set and effects all mirrored the mind of Cranham’s character, Andre. He sadly has dementia setting in and his daughter Anne (Amanda Drew) is at her wits end as another of his carers quits her job. Her other half, Pierre (Daniel Flynn) is all for his potential father-in-law going into a home and he’s not kind to the octogenarian, or is this a confused memory from Andre? The order of the scenes and the technical effects are placed with such precision that the audience are effectively following Andre’s jumbled thought processes. At the same time it is easy to identify with his daughter, Anne’s exasperation and it’s a particularly moving moment when it dawned on me that his potential carer, played by Jade Williams, is in fact his much missed younger daughter. Or is she?
Kenneth Cranham moved seamlessly from loving father to confused dementia sufferer, he was heart-breaking and joyous in equal measure and quite something to behold. His standing ovation was more than deserved.
There is a chemistry between Cranham and Drew which is at the heart of the action, and I don’t feel that this would work as well as it does without that. Similarly, the chemistry between Cranham and Rebecca Charles, who plays Andre’s nurse shines through. It’s a touching relationship between nurse and patient which I feel is representative of many a ‘clinical’ bond.
It was notable that the set changed to reflect Andre’s state of mind and interesting in the way we were offered a window into his world, almost segregated from it at the same time, though. A concept which spoke volumes before a word of script was uttered.
The Father stays at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre until Saturday 7th May and you can book tickets here: http://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/event/the-father/