The Father by Florian Zeller at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, September 26
- Credit: Archant
The Father by Florian Zeller at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, September 26. Review by ANGELA SINGER.
This is a play for today alright. A most haunting problem of the domestic scene. Andre is getting more and more forgetful.
Florian Zeller’s award-winning play, translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, allows the audience to see the confusion from Andre’s point of view. When a different woman comes in unannounced who doesn’t look like his daughter, we don’t recognise her either.
We are not told that he has been moved into hospital, we just guess because suddenly, he is in his pyjamas and the familiar furniture isn’t in the room. It looks stark. Where have the bookshelves gone?
Who are these new people? What is this strange place? His daughter, Anne, is married, isn’t she? When the character says, no, she is divorced, Andre chuckles. Oooh what a blunder!
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His illness doesn’t stop him being himself. He still has a fine sense of humour, he just gets a weaker and weaker hold on the immediate past. His mind unravels like a piece of knitting. When you slide it off the needles, the latest stitches will undo first. Eventually, all he remembers is his mother.
Held together with a gentle humour, this is a wonderfully natural, yet luminescent performance by Kenneth Cranham. Convinced at first that the rest of the world has got it wrong, gradually it comes over him that the confusion is his and his bewilderment breaks him. He cannot move for fear.
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In a stella, ensemble cast, Claire Skinner gives an immaculate performance as the loving daughter frustrated by a growing problem that she cannot control or predict as her father is lost to his illness but reluctant every step of the way to change his life to accommodate it.
On its way to the West End, this delicately written, heart-felt play is a glimpse into something all around us but which we hope we won’t face. An entertaining exploration.