‘The Father’ by Florian Zeller

On Wednesday I watched ‘The Father’ by Florian Zeller (translated by Christopher Hampton) at the Tricycle theatre. It was a very touching and moving story about an 80 year old man called Andre (played by Kenneth Cranham) who was gradually losing control of his life due to Alzheimer’s disease. Everything that Andre treasured, loved and enjoyed was taken away from him as a result of his lack of health.  Andre had to move in with his daughter, Anne (Claire Skinner), so that she look after him and monitor his care-worker. However, Antoine (Anne’s husband) was quickly growing sick of Andre’s present in their home so this caused much conflict and friction between Andre and his daughter.  Overall, I would say that the most impressive aspect of the production was Kenneth Cranham’s performance as Andre.

Kenneth had the role of the Alzheimer’s sufferer. I think playing a person with an illness is particularly difficult because, more often than not, as an actor you probably wouldn’t have experienced the illness first hand. This means it is a big challenge to be both authentic and somewhat at ease with the illness on stage (if that makes sense). What I could see as an audience member was that Kenneth was being entirely “in the moment” and giving us a genuine reaction rather than playing what we expected to see.  Indeed, he was a man just as confused as us about his debilitating circumstances. Without a doubt, his authenticity annihilated all possible barriers between the audience and Andre, making the narrative all the more gripping. In terms of the emotional range, we saw Andre vulnerable, timid, broken as well as strong, hopeful and ignorant. Having such natural reactions made every single emotion feel valid and completely important. It was still an emotional rollercoaster but not as ‘in your face’ as I expected.

The script was very well-written and reflective of everyday speech. I enjoyed the fact that were two different actors who played Anne’s husband Antoine. It illustrated Andre’s confused nature effortlessly. I can’t remember all the details so it might be worth watching again…

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