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A Fabulous Study Of Caring For Family
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 23rd April 2016
This is quite a challenging play to write about. It was stunning and worthy of its many 5 star reviews from the West End. Kenneth Cranham is absolutely central to the action with a star like quality that I have witnessed when, for example, Donald Pleasance revived The Caretaker or Derek Jacobi in Becket. These were amongst the first shows that I saw at the Theatre Royal when I arrived in Newcastle and became the markers by which other shows have been judged.
This show is difficult to write about as one does not want to give too much away. There is nothing worse than reading spoilers in a review before going to see a show and, trust me, you should go and see this show. So let me start again.
Kenneth Cranham stars as André, an elderly gentleman living in Paris, who used to be an engineer, a father, a powerful character but is now in his twilight years. His mental faculties are not what they used to be. Daily battles include trying to remember people’s names and trying to work out where he has put his watch. Looking after him is his daughter Anne, which had Amanda Drew in a very credible performance. She is having to consider tricky decisions after he father has fallen out with yet another care worker that was employed to look after him.
Adding to the bewilderment are partner Pierre (Daniel Flynn), new care worker Laura (Jade Williams) and various roles by Brian Doherty and Rebecca Charles.
The audience watch the painful struggle with dementia in short bursts off action. The stage is a living room, complete with a ceiling and furniture. Guy Hoare’s lighting design plunges the set into darkness as each scene finishes and then Christopher Shutt’s sound design takes over with short bursts of music. Each scene having subtly different lighting to reflect the mood.
A decision has been made to make the show run for 90 minutes without interval. This decision should be applauded as it helps build the tension between scenes. Director James Macdonald has got fine performance from his cast. French playwright Florian Zeller has been described by The Independent as “one of the hottest literary talents in Europe” and based upon this script one can only concur. Translator Christopher Hampton has provided a sympathetic script which conveys the necessary emotion.
Credit too must go to those behind the scenes that help make this show tick. Their work did not go unnoticed.
Moments of good humour and harrowing moments of despair are uneasy bedfellows. Great theatre should be thought provoking and challenging. This show does not overplay the sympathy hand or go for cheap point scoring. It is far better than that.
Quite rightly Kenneth Cranham won the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Play for his role in The Father. His performance was flawless. Amanda Drew is also incredible in her role as the long suffering daughter. The supporting cast play their part in creating a play of such quality.
In fact it is only April and perhaps we have seen one of the best productions of the year. If not, it is going to be a brilliant year for theatre visiting the North East.
This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR (www.jowheretogo.com). Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook www.facebook.com/Jowheretogo
Read the original North East Theatre Guide preview: http://nomorepanicbutton.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/preview-father-at-newcastle-theatre.html
The Father appears at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Monday 18th – Saturday 23rd April 2016. Tickets are available from £12 (a booking fee of 95p - £1.95 will apply to most tickets) and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 or book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk