DramaNorth WestReview

The Father – Oldham Coliseum

Writers:  Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton
Director: Kevin Shaw
Reviewer: Richard Hall

The Coliseum’s final in-house production of the spring/summer 2017 season is a bold and innovative choice for this venue. The Father, by French novelist and playwright Florian Zeller, is a powerful, dark, tragic comedy about the harrowing and devastating impact of dementia on one man and his family.

Andre is a charming elderly gentleman who once enjoyed a successful career as a dancer or did he? He lives in a chic Parisian apartment with his daughter Anne and her husband Antoine.  Zeller skilfully charts Andre’s descent into full-blown Alzheimer’s by deliberately confusing and subverting reality. Gradually the audience begins to see and experience events through Andre’s eyes to the extent that by the end of the play they too have become as confused and disoriented as he is.

For much of the play, Andre is fixated with finding a missing watch, the reasons for why and how he has lost it depend on which version of reality his confused state allows him to inhabit. In these various states, he is observed interacting with characters that may or not be his daughter, son in law and full-time career. Anyone who has experienced living with dementia will easily identify with Andre’s fragility and discomfort and with the very real exasperation and guilt felt by relatives and friends who have no choice but to endure this cruel condition.

At the age of 80, Kenneth Alan Taylor as Andre draws on all of his considerable theatrical experience to give one of the finest performances of his illustrious and impressive stage career. Best known for being a former Artistic Director of the Coliseum and one of its legendary Panto Dames, Alan Taylor’s central performance as Andre is riveting and heart-breaking in equal measure. Rarely has this reviewer seen vulnerability by a male actor portrayed so convincingly on stage. Alan Taylor’s performance is guaranteed to reduce even the hardest hearted theatregoer to tears.

Director, Kevin Shaw is to be congratulated for presenting the North West premiere of this award-winning play. To support Alan Taylor he has assembled a first-rate cast of Coliseum regulars including John Elkington and Helen Kay. Patrick Connellan’s striking; elevated box set with paper thin, translucent walls playfully distorts perspective and reinforces Andre’s growing sense of dislocation and displacement.

This is a golden summer for actors in their twilight years; Alan Taylor’s outstanding performance follows quickly on from 78-year-old Janet Suzman’s epic turn in Rose at Home. Productions of this quality are a rare opportunity to celebrate the achievements and talents of some of our most experienced and respected actors. The Father deserves to be seen for both the quality of Zeller’s writing and also to see the vintage Alan Taylor at his very best.

Runs until 1 July 2017 | Image: Joel C Fildes

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One Comment

  1. Good review. You hit on the essence of the play (‘deliberately confusing and subverting reality’). I’m lost for words where K A Taylor is concerned so I won’t even try to find them. I’d like to know what the smashed piano represented. Any ideas?

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