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Criterion Theatre
The Father (2019)
Florian Zeller. Translated by Christopher Hampton.
Sat 16th March to Sat 23rd March
Memory

 A Tragic Farce 

Winner of the 2014 Molière award for France’s best play.

 

Director – John Ruscoe
Production Photos
Cast
André – Keith Railton
Anne – Cathryn Bowler
Woman – Helen McGowan
Pierre – Hugh Sorrill
Man – Peter Gillam
Laura – Leonie Slater
Crew
Stage Manager – Helen Withers
Designer – Simon Sharpe
Wardrobe – Jean Firth
Wardrobe – Liz Hodgkiss
Props – Frances Dixon
Props – Chris Marrakis
Sound Design – Joe Bennett
Sound – Dave Cornish
Prompt – Lilian McGrath
Stage Crew – Jenson Jones
Stage Crew – Michael Hammond
Stage Crew – Lukasz Nowacki
Artwork Design – Steph Stradling
Lighting Design – Sarah Basford
Set Build – Terry Cornwall
Set Build – Chris Hernon
Set Build – Elizabeth Mullenger
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Simon Sharpe
Set Build – Mandy Sutton
Set Build – Mike Waterson
Set Build – Kevin Woods
Set Painting – Paul Chokran
Set Painting – Tzu-Han Huang
Set Painting – Mafalda Quinas
Set Painting – Judy Talbot
Lighting Team – Lily Barber
Lighting Team – Sarah Basford
Lighting Team – Alice Cobert
Lighting Team – Fenella Kelly
Lighting Team – Karl Stafford
The Play

His things are being stolen, one daughter wants to take his flat away, the other one never visits. He is threatened with violence and strangers are coming in and out of his flat and saying that they are friends and family. Andre knows that he must find some way to assert his authority.

 

Described as a "savagely honest study of dementia", ‘The Father’ makes us see things as if through the confused eyes of André, as he struggles to make sense of a progressively befuddling world.

 

Sound grim? It’s not.

 

It’s a play that constantly confounds expectations and works almost like a thriller, with a sinister Pinteresque edge, as complete strangers keep on turning up in André’s flat. There are strong echoes of ‘King Lear’, both in the impending madness and the father-daughter relationships, but there is also comedy in a situation that has its farcical elements even as the tragedy unfolds.

 

What the Reviewers said about the Criterion's Production 

 

"Moving study of man's rage against the dying of the light"

 

"Life for this elderly titular figure is a constant nightmare of confusion. He is surrounded by walls that are forever reality of the most terrifying proportions . . . . At the centre of it all is a towering performance by Keith Railton .The whole is shaped and magnified by John Ruscoe’s unflinching direction which heightens the ongoing sense of paranoia with contrasting light and shade and claustrophobic images of room-to-room internment."    Peter McGarry

 

"Keith Railton gives an extraordinary performance in the central role, remembering lines that Andre would forget in an instant and giving us a clear insight into what it is like to be a human being losing his own clarity of thought and understanding.

 

Under John Ruscoe’s direction, Simon Sharpe’s set design and some ingenious use of lighting and music, we are given a sense of a man whose world has shrunk to the point where he is a child again."                   

 

Chris Arnot 

 

"Given the dark nature of this material we need some light. We get it in Keith Railton’s magnificent performance. Andre’s character has been compared to that of Lear, and in Railton’s hands there is good reason. Besieged, despised, terribly lonely, he fights back with powerful if misplaced energy, and in doing so he gains a certain dignity."  

 

Nick le Mesurier

 

(To read all three reviews in full click on 'The Review' above the photos of the production)

 

 

 

This amateur production of ‘THE FATHER’ (Hampton/ Zeller) was presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH LTD. 

Reviews
Review by Nick Le Mesurier
 
Florian Zeller’s masterpiece, The Father, gets as close to the experience of having dementia as one is likely to get without actually having it.
 
Andre (Keith Railton) is an old man. He lives alone in a flat in Paris. His daughter Anne (Cathryn Bowler) cares for him while working and building a new relationship with Pierre (Hugh Sorrill). He has carers come in to look after him, but most of them leave in tears after
few days. Andre is not always a nice man. Though he can be charming he is often waspish, bitter, angry, but above all frightened. People once familiar to him become unfamiliar, things said a few moments ago are heard again afresh without any context. Places he has known for years become alien. Coherence is broken, nothing makes sense. It is simply terrifying.
 
Much of the play centres on his relationships with Anne and her lover, with whom he lives. It is a fractured relationship, and Andre’s behaviour acts as a wedge between them.
 
The Father uses a clever technique of occasionally replacing a named character with an unnamed one (Peter Gillam) so that one is never quite sure who Andre is actually talking to.
 
So it is for him. Not that he would want to talk to them much. The men are devoid of sympathy for him, consistently angry and resentful at the damage he wreaks upon their hopes and aspirations, frustrated at his inability to see sense. They do all the wrong things for a person with dementia. They shout at him, accuse him of deliberately spoiling their lives, constantly try to correct him, slap him, tell him he’s wrong. They’re not the only ones.
 
Even well-meaning and kindly people, like Anne herself, or Laura, the carer (Leonie Slater) and Woman (Helen McGowan), can’t help but insist that their sense should be his sense.
 
Given the dark nature of this material we need some light. We get it in Keith Railton’s magnificent performance. Andre’s character has been compared to that of Lear, and in Railton’s hands there is good reason. Besieged, despised, terribly lonely, he fights back with powerful if misplaced energy, and in doing so he gains a certain dignity. One feels for Anne too. How can she retain a sense of normality when his illness makes a mockery of normality minute by minute? The play is a searing existential drama as well as one about a dreadful I’ll ness.
 
Some people with dementia achieve a benign state of incoherence and some of those are cared for by people who care about them. For many others on both sides of the carer / cared for divide it is a nightmare from which one cannot awake, leavened only by a kind of selfless love that is the epitome of generosity.
 
The Father deals with a difficult subject in ways that are moving and hopefully promote understanding and sympathy, though no one could call it optimistic.
 
 
Review by Chris Arnot
On behalf of https://www.elementarywhatson.com/
 
Andre has lost his watch. Again. It keeps going missing and he keeps
blaming somebody else for its absence from his wrist, be it his daughter or his day-time carer. Anyone apart from himself.
 
Meanwhile, the old-fashioned clock on the top shelf of the bookcase is another reminder that time is passing. And with each passing day Andre’s descent into dementia becomes more apparent.
 
Particularly for his daughter Anne, it would seem – his “least favourite daughter” as he stresses on more than one occasion. And, yes, Anne is there to hear him say it. Or is she? Is Andre living with her and her partner Pierre at their minimalist apartment in Paris? Or has she gone to live in London with another man? And what has happened to the other
daughter, Elise? Is she dead or is she simply keeping her distance
from the father who apparently adores her?
 
It’s all very confusing. But then confusion is the essence of dementia and Florian Zeller’s extraordinary play explores it with a Lear-like bleakness, a Pinteresque edginess and a few welcome flashes of humour.
 
There are times when the Andre of old asserts himself. His charm and authority return, only to disappear in an instant. He is no longer capable of asserting that authority and it evaporates into menace and empty threat as his frustration is laid bare in a way that is both revealing and touching.
 
Keith Railton gives an extraordinary performance in the central role, remembering lines that Andre would forget in an instant and giving us a clear insight into what it is like to be a human being losing his own clarity of thought and understanding.
 
The other members of the cast are hard to fault, be it Cathryn Bowler as Anne struggling with her father’s decline, Hugh Sorrill capturing Pierre’s pent-up frustration or Pete Gillam as a shadowy threat to Andre, physically as well as mentally.
 
Under John Ruscoe’s direction, Simon Sharpe’s set design and some ingenious use of lighting and music, we are given a sense of a man whose world has shrunk to the point where he is a child again. Another line from Shakespeare comes to mind. As Prospero put it in ‘The Tempest’, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little lives are rounded with a sleep”.
 
 
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