Dementia is phenomenally painful condition for the elderly generation in which all of their fondest memories will in time vanish from their brains, yet what transpires if their cerebral thoughts turn into childlike behaviour? The Tricycle Theatre’s production of Florian Zeller’s play, ‘The Father’, that has been shrewdly translated into English by Christopher Hampton is a terrifically written piece of dramatic art, on top of this the enactments by the company were flawless.
‘The Father’ is set in Paris, France where we are introduced to 80 year old Andre who we believe was once an engineer, but he thinks he was a former professional dancer. At present, due to Andre’s radical memory loss he has been forced to live with his daughter, Anne and her husband, Pierre where he is constantly wearing his pyjamas and complains that he’s misplaced his expensive watch where he ponders that his carers have stolen it. Throughout the performance, Andre’s daughter Anne is gradually becoming more concerned about Andre’s health that she turns to being his full-time carer. Nonetheless, her male lover, Pierre her husband and Man (Jim Sturgeon) soon gravitates to jealousy, in which Pierre upsets and torments Andre to the point where Andre cries like a little boy. In direct contrast to this, Andre assumes that Anne’s apartment is in fact his own and he squeals when furniture is removed, this is due to the fact that Anne is on route to move from Paris to London. As you would expect this continues to cause Andre a lot of discomfort and vagueness into what is arising in his life. Anne hires another carer, Laura (Jade Williams) to look after Andre, but unlike his previous carers the relationship proves to be quite fruitful as according to Andre she reminds him of his deceased daughter, on the other hand, Andre cannot recollect that his youngest has died. Once Anne relocates to London, Andre has moved to a residential home for the elderly where his nurse (Rebecca Charles) is on hand to attend Andre’s every need. At this stage, Andre’s dementia and his physiological wellbeing has drastically deteriorated where he is acting like a little boy that is mollycoddled by his nurse and at the finale it is tragic to learn that he has passed away from natural causes. Zeller’s narrative is seamless as he has crafted a script that is vastly stimulating as we’re witnessing the decline of one man’s mind and how he cannot remember any of his memories whatsoever and Zeller does combine humour and tear jerking moments with grandeur.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Father’ to be faultless as they capture both the comedy and heart-wrenching moments with such effect. Kenneth Cranham is textbook as central protagonist, Andre; largely where comes across somewhat discombobulated that hasn’t lived in his own flat for some time, moreover his breakdown in the home for the elderly was distressing. Claire Skinner is delightful as Andre’s daughter, Anne; primarily how upsetting it is for her to see her own father’s life dwindling in front of her own eyes and his does cause her relationship with Pierre to become ‘on the rocks’. Colin Tierney is fabulous as Anne’s husband, Pierre; for example how Andre’s presence is forcing him to take all of his anger towards Andre in a shocking and violent manner, as well as, he seems to present a dark and sinister tone within the show.
James Macdonald’s direction is picture-perfect he as he has encapsulated a moving and side-splitting representation of an ageing man whose entire existence is at the brink of despair and the detailing of the characterisations is vastly entrancing. Miriam Buether’s design is exceptional as she has directed us to a Parisian atmosphere where the white walls can resemble those of emptiness of Andre’s mind due to his dementia and the lack of hope of his improvement. Overall, he experience of, ‘The Father’ o be a moving piece of theatre that leaves you thinking you need to protect the senior citizens of society.