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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Father

"I feel as if I am losing all my leaves." — Andre
The Father
Kenneth Cranham as Andre and Claire Skinner as Anne (Photo: Simon Annand)
The Father is an intriguing and saddening play which confuses us as we empathise with a man whose view of reality is disintegrating. Kenneth Cranham plays Andre a man living in Paris who has an exasperated and anxious daughter Anne (Claire Skinner) who is planning to move to London.

In the opening scene Anne is talking to her father about the new home help Andre has accused of taking his watch. When the watch is found and Anne says that the home help could not have taken it, Andre says she would have, if he had not hidden it first. There is no reasoning with this befuddled and intransigent logic.

Just as we think that we have a grip on the play, it all goes out of the window as other people appear and seem to be Anne or her husband from whom she is separated. A harpsichord plays between scenes, little lights frame the blacked out stage. Pierre (Nicholas Gleaves) comes and goes and seems to be Anne's husband but isn't planning to live in London. Now we are intrigued.

Notes slip and jar from the harpsichord refrain and pieces of furniture start to disappear. People question whether this is Andre's flat, maybe he is staying there in his son in law's apartment. But who is his daughter and who is the home help? Then the penny drops. We are inside Andre's head. The versions of events are his confused thoughts as Alzheimer's takes hold. He tells someone, we cannot be sure who it is, that he used to be a tap dancer.

Andre starts wearing his pajamas. "Did I sleep well?" he asks himself. "How should I know?" says Andre. There is a mystery about his other daughter. This play is so hard to review without a text as I battle trying to make sense of the conflicting information.

Kenneth Cranham is immensely moving as Andre, except that I kept having the meta-theatrical thought asking how he remembers all those lines. Andre is lost in his own world. We wonder whether it is better to have moments of clarity or not, whether we should like to be aware of the memory loss.

This play describes the condition many of us will slip into, frustrating our relatives and carers. As the set is stripped away and the musical notes become discordant, so too will our precious sanity limp away. The loneliness is the final image of Andre completely isolated not remembering the death of his other daughter.

The night I saw The Father most of the audience were, like me, of the age when forgetfulness approaches. A woman in the row in front couldn't find her umbrella at the end of the play. After we had searched for it for a few minutes she said, "Perhaps I didn't have it with me. Perhaps I didn't bring it? Perhaps I left it somewhere else? " Poignant but we had to smile at the irony.

the Tricycle have just announced that Florian Zeller's next play The Mother will be on early in 2016.

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The Father
Written by Florian Zeller
Directed by James Macdonald

Starring: Kenneth Cranham, Claire Skinner
With: Nicholas Gleaves, Kirsty Oswald, Jim Sturgeon, Rebecca Charles
Design: Mirian Buether
Lighting: Guy Hoare
Sound: Christopher Shutt
Running time: One hour 35 minutes without an interval
Box Office 0844 482 5120
Booking to 21st November 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 7th October 2015 performance at Wyndhams Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DA (Tube: Leicester Square)
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