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The Father By Florian Zeller - Theatre Review

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Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Outnumbered Star Claire Skinner In Moving Play On Dementia
Florian Zeller's extraordinary French play about dementia, Le Père, broke new ground in theatre, winning three Molière Awards in 2014, including Best New Play.

That work has been translated into The Father by Christopher Hampton and, thankfully, doesn't lose the essence of such a challenging, emotional topic.

The father, Kenneth Cranham, Claire skinner, florian Zeller, malvern theatres, bath theatre royal,
The award-winning Father play has been translated for UK theatres.

I caught the production during its brief UK tour,taking in just three cities of London, Malvern and Bath until the end of June.

It stays at Malvern Theatres in the Midlands for a week until June 20 before moving on to Theatre Royal Bath, where it was produced, from June 22 to 27.

Dementia is a tough subject to address at any time and this provocative, intelligent piece of theatre doesn't shy away from the awkward agony of such an illness.

Although brief, it's an unforgettable award-winning play that haunts you well after leaving the theatre. It gradually grows more uncomfortable over 90 minutes, particularly for anyone with ageing parents.

Writer Florian Zeller takes the audience into the disorientated mind of dementia patient Andre by juxtaposing snapshots of his relationship with his daughter Anne in varying time order.

Much of it doesn't seem logical, like missing furniture and changing actors, until it suddenly all clicks into place towards the final scenes.

Film star and theatre regular Kenneth Cranham ( Hot Fuzz, Layer Cake, Maleficent) gives an outstanding performance as likeable Andre, despite some of the harsh, bristling comments to his daughter. He is compelling from start to finish and no more so than in the final moving moments of the play.

The father, Kenneth Cranham , Malvern theatres, bath theatre royal
Kenneth Cranham is outstanding in The Father

Claire Skinner, taking a break from starring as the hard-done-by mother in BBC1's Outnumbered is the hard-done-by daughter in The Father. She's a study in a woman slowly losing her patience and composure.

Be warned though that although this play has been described as a black comedy, there are very few laughs, and it would be more pertinent to put it in the category of an emotional family drama.

Zeller has been described as 'one of the hottest literary talents in France'. When describing this work, Zeller said he wanted the audience to "become lost in this mental labyrinth - so as to experience more completely, from the inside, the tragedy of old age".

He has definitely achieved that, and although it sometimes makes for difficult viewing, it's a play that should be seen.

Rating: 8/10

The Father
UK Tour Dates
Tickets cost from £18.48.

June 16 - 20 - Malvern Theatres
For tickets, visit Malvern Theatres website.

June 22 - 27 - Theatre Royal Bath
Visit Theatre Royal website for tickets.
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Why? See an outstanding play about dementia and ageing
When: Touring until June 27
Phone: 01684 892277
Where: Malvern Theatres and Theatre Royal Bath
Cost: From £18.48
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