Direction: Ross Jolly (written by Florian Zeller; translated by Christopher Hampton)
Circa Theatre; Circa One (Oct 14 – Nov 11)
The Father manages that rare feat: to be profoundly moving and deeply, often darkly, hilarious. Florian Zeller’s script is a masterpiece, the writing just about perfect, an examination of the cruelty of aging and memory loss and anguish with exploration of resentment and filial obligation. Cleverly we get the first hints through clever use of set, lighting and sound design, Ross Jolly’s direction perceptive – and in a stacked cast of very fine performances it is Jeffrey Thomas as the titular Andre, father to Anne (Danielle Mason) who is given the hour (and a half) to subtly strut, to truly shine. Mason is wonderful too. Their dynamic so crucial to the success of this staging – Gavin Rutherford, Harriet Prebble, Simon Leary and Bronwyn Turei all offer strong support but it’s about the performances of Mason and Thomas.
It’s hard to have a fly-on-the-wall when your mind is a head full of bees.
And so we are drawn into Andre’s various worlds – the unreliable narrator taken to a new level. He’s almost instantly both charming and very hard to like. He’s cruel – but there’s a gathering sense of why that might be. To talk too much about key moments would of course ruin he point of the play.
But the story of The Father is around Andre’s decline in health and his daughter’s decision to care for him while working herself, eventually bringing in other carers – struggling to keep her relationships, life and work in their various corners. Everything spills in on itself, everything revolves around The Father – and as scenes play out and re-play and overlap the audience comes to see things from Andre’s (increasingly) unsure state.
The play is a revelation, the performances keep you hooked, the whole production a triumph. And when I left I kept thinking of the writing. What it took to get this out of the mind and onto paper, from there to the stage. The chiselling, refinement, the reworkings – the leaps (faith, logic, trust).
The father is yet another must-see theatre experience in a terrific run from Circa this year. Anything that can keep you thinking, keep you smiling, have you laughing, breaking your heart all the while…well, that’s theatre at its very best as far as I’m concerned.