Thursday, 9 November 2017
The Father, MTC/STC, Nov 8, 2017 ****
By Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton
By Melbourne Theatre Company & Sydney Theatre Company
At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Dec 16, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Nov 8, 2017
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Thurs Nov 9, 2017, and later in print. KH
The Father_ John Bell_pic Philip Erbacher
Watching someone you love spiral into dementia is distressing, but being the person experiencing that descent into confusion must be far, far worse.
And so it is in Florian Zeller’s play, The Father, as we view André’s (John Bell) life from both the outside and from his own addled and angry perspective.
Bell is charming, frightened, frustrated and frustrating as André as he struggles to comprehend the changes in his immediate surroundings when he moves from his own, beloved apartment in Paris to live with his daughter, Anne (Anita Hegh), and her partner, Pierre (Marco Chiappi).
André’s familiar and previously secure world is evaporating as we watch: furniture disappears, he repeatedly loses his precious watch, and he does not recognise his daughter, her partner or his carer.
In a sensitive, nuanced and heart-rending performance deftly directed by Damien Ryan, Bell effectively captures André’s transformation from a belligerent, confident and intelligent older man, into one plagued by angst, fear and bewilderment.
Zeller’s challenging play, translated from French by Christopher Hampton, is episodic, using short scenes and repeated vignettes to highlight André’s loosening grasp of time and place.
The witty dialogue makes comedy the flip side of despair and characters shift from friend to foe as we observe them from André’s viewpoint.
Hegh is sympathetic as Anne who is overwhelmed by her father’s deteriorating condition, while Chiappi, as her partner, plays the supportive but pragmatic voice of reason.
Three additional cast members complete this strong ensemble: Faustina Agolley is the relentlessly cheerful carer, Laura, while Glenn Hazeldine and Natasha Herbert play multiple characters that heighten André’s disorientation and panic.
The Father is a warm but confronting play that tilts our perceptions and challenges our views of ageing and dementia.
By Kate Herbert
The Father_Anita Hegh, John Bell_pic Philip Erbacher
Cast - John Bell, Faustina Agolley, Marco Chiappi, Glenn Hazeldine, Anita Hegh, Natasha Herbert
Director - Damien Ryan
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Set & Costume Designer - Alicia Clements
Lighting Designer - Rachel Burke
Composer & Sound Designer - Steve Francis