REVIEW - Florian's 'The Father' at the Birmingham Crescent good overall but the jury's out on some parts - The Bromsgrove Standard

REVIEW - Florian's 'The Father' at the Birmingham Crescent good overall but the jury's out on some parts

Bromsgrove Editorial 28th May, 2023   0

Frenchman Florian Zeller’s play ‘The Father’ was hailed as a modern masterpiece of playwriting back in 2012.

Christopher Hampton translated it and the two of them collaborated on the screenplay for the 2020 film version starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman.

Both the play and the film have been showered with awards and it is not difficult to understand why – it is so unique in its storytelling method.  The audience are immersed in the crumbling world of a mind besieged by dementia and observe through the eyes of the beholder.

Staging this is as much a challenge for the director as it is for the actor concerned.  Nothing must detract from the madness yet there are backstories a plenty. Director’s dilemma ‘To tinker or not to tinker’ that is the question!

In this Crescent production Mark Thompson wisely chooses for the most part to just frill up the edges and let André be his fulcrum.

Picture courtesy of the Crescent Theatre. s

André is the father and played by Brian Wilson who must surely top his long and illustrious Crescent acting career with this tour-de-force. Working in harmony Thompson and Wilson weave a clever web.




André kicks off with an arrogance reserved for the French – he is right and everyone else is wrong. His carer is stealing from him, his family is lying to him, there are plots afoot everywhere – life is one long cocaine paranoia binge without the cocaine.

Wilson’s André sniggers contemptuously as he has us doubting what is real and who’s telling the porkies – then his journey gradually becomes darker and familiar faces merge one into another until they appear as faceless masks.  We share his despair and get locked into his mind come prison with him.


Jenny Thurston lets the love shine through the frustration as Anne, André’s daughter. Always measured it’s the right performance delivered generously to whoever she is sharing the stage with at the time.

Katie Siggs is the textbook carer and nurse, firm, fair and controlling like cotton wool tending the puss oozing sore under a sticking plaster. You get the impression that the soothing maybe superficial – Munchausen’s by proxy even and will sting like a scorpion if you try to lift the plaster.

It may well be part of Thompson’s directing approach but I found Eduardo White as Anne’s husband Pierre stilted and lacking in tenderness in the scenes with his wife. Even his bullying and face slapping of André lacked impact.  I know it’s not meant to be joined up acting but rather André’s jigsaw nightmare puzzle with pieces missing but I wanted White to crank it up a few gears and not be quite so mannered.

In fairness whilst Charles Michael who gives us and André an alternative Pierre, may not quite as removed as White is, he definitely plays it off the same hymn sheet – so I conclude this is director tinkering which does not work for me.

Picture courtesy of the Crescent Theatre. s

Jess Shannon completes the company with smiles and efficiency as another Anne.

I’m still pondering and will continue to do and that is a good thing. Reviewing is not about being right or wrong it is about expressing an opinion and whilst the jury may be out on a couple of the scenes overall it is a first rate outing.

Wilson is triumphant and cribbing from Bruce Springsteen ‘As André Brian you were born to run’.

The Father runs at the Crescent until June 3. Click here for times, tickets and more information.

****

 

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

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