Thursday, 19 September 2019

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: The Father - Mary Wallace Theatre, Twickenham.

This was my second visit to the fabulous Mary Wallace Theatre in the picturesque town of Twickenham, just a short walk from the banks of the Rover Thames. The venue is full of character, as are the staff both at the box office and the bar where they knew most of the locals who were in attendance – there is a real community feeling about this theatre.

I have to confess to not knowing very much about the play, it is called “The Father” and was written by Florian Zeller – a French playwright who was born in Paris in 1979. The original title of the play was “Le Père” and was translated by Christopher Hampton – it has twice received the Premier Prize in France.

The story was centred on Andre (Chris Haddock), who is father to Anne (Lynne Harrison) and is suffering from dementia, albeit he is unwilling to accept this is the case. In the first scene Andre is in quite an animated state and Anne is making some accusations that her father has threated his care worker and she has subsequently quit the job. Andre denies all of the accusations but is clearly confused by the situation and cannot remember some of the more basic parts of his life.

The scenes come thick and fast as different scenarios are played out throughout the rest of play, most of which are there to demonstrate Andre’s confused state and general erratic behaviour as a result of the dementia. All of the scenes started and ended with complete darkness to increase the drama – scenes that mostly ended with Andre struggling to come to terms with his confusion and cutting a very frustrated figure.

The stage was set up in quite a simple way – a Parisian flat with a sofa and a dining table with some chairs. There were impressionist paintings on the wall, seemingly painted by Andre’s other daughter who we never got to meet – she was just another symptom of his dementia having died some years earlier in an accident.

In later scenes we meet some of the other characters, Laura (Laura-May Hassan) who is the new care worker employed to look after Andre and Pierre (Luciano Dodero) who is Anne’s new partner – as well as being the driving force behind the plan to move Andre to a care home. The dynamic between Andre and Pierre is particularly fascinating – Pierre wants to have Anne to himself and sees Andre as a distraction that their lives do not need.

The production was 90 minutes with no interval and in this case the lack of an interval is important – it would have ruined the momentum that builds through the play. There were 15 scenes and they were all in some way connected to Andre’s dementia. Some of the scenes involved humour but mostly laughs at Andre’s expense – his constant obsession with losing his watch continued to get laughs throughout.

I thought Chris Haddock was an impressive Andre, he played the part with all of the right attributes and was incredibly believable as a dementia patient. He displayed all of the anger that you would expect from a man who at times cannot remember where he is, who he is and who any of the people are around him – including his own daughter. The way the production used different actors (Peter Easterbrook and Lizzie Williams) to play the parts of Anne, Pierre and Laura was an extremely good way to demonstrate Andre’s state of confusion.

This production of “The Father” is yet another impressive output from the Mary Wallace Theatre and hugely thought-provoking. The awareness of dementia has been growing in the last few years as more and more people are affected by the disease – this production exposes the audience to the harsh realities of the disease and this can only be a good thing.

Reviewer - John Fish
on - 17/9/19

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