Oldham Coliseum Theatre
Until Saturday 1st July, 2017
A profound and intricately crafted drama from one of France’s most exciting and prolific modern playwrights, Florian Zeller’s Molière Award-winning The Father (Le Père) is amongst the most acclaimed and powerful stage works in recent memory.
At its core is the deeply moving relationship between parent and child: the parent, Andre, now 80 years old and suffering with dementia; the child, Anne, a devoted and loyal daughter struggling to balance her own relationship with the unconditional love for her father, and his increasing care demands.
A brutally honest examination of dementia and the devastating effects on all affected, the original Theatre Royal Bath production was met with extraordinary success, winning Kenneth Cranham the Olivier Award for Best Actor for the subsequent West End transfer, and later moving to Broadway, with Cranham’s scuccessor, Frank Langella, picking up the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
For this hotly-anticipated North West premiere, now comes the turn of Oldham Coliseum stalwart, Kenneth Alan Taylor, who brings the full weight of his six-decade career experience to an exceptional and beautifully rendered performance. Andre is a mammoth and incredibly demanding role to execute, and yet despite the difficult subject matter, Taylor clearly relishes every moment. Despite a tragically disintegrating mind, there is still an wicked sense of humour and intelligence that lies behind Andre’s befuddled expression, and between the sharp, sarcastic wit, confusion and unpredictable childish outbursts, Taylor captures every nuance perfectly.
Kerry Peers grows in to the role of Anne with a moving and nicely balanced performance, with good supporting turns from Helen Kay, Jo Mousley, Colin Connor and John Elkington.
Fractured and fragmented – flicking back and forth through the years in a disorienting fashion – strange characters come and go and locations transform and disappear in front of our very eyes, with the audience being thrust firmly into Andre’s distorted and unfamiliar world as we ourselves struggle to grasp the true reality of things.
The Father is the King Lear of its generation – though told on a much more intimate scale – blended with moments of uneasy, black humour and surreal elements of thriller in its Gaslight-esque approach to memory loss.
Designer Patrick Connellan’s confining, rectangular box set – raised up on a plinth and with a broken piano lying just outside the fourth wall frame – gives an added sense of restriction and claustrophobia to Christopher Hampton’s translated text.
It is an incredibly brave move for artistic director Kevin Shaw to bring such a challenging play to the Coliseum and his fragile and respectful production is a triumph.
Photos by Joel C Fildes
Running Time: 1 hour and 55-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at Oldham Coliseum Theatre: Saturday 1st July, 2017.
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.