07:00 5 March 2022
The brutality of dementia is at the heart of this dark but slightly humorous play that both disturbs and grips the audience.
Translated by Christopher Hampton from the French original by Florian Zeller, the film version of The Father earned the screenwriters an Oscar, alongside one for Anthony Hopkins.
At the Sewell Barn in Norwich, John Dane puts in an equally stellar performance as Andrew, the titular father who loses his grip on the world around him.
Dane’s performance is manly, energetic and engaging – full of confidence, all aimed at concealing his increasingly fragile foot.
He’s cruel – sometimes unforgivable – but his warmth remains incredibly seductive, almost literally in one startling scene.
Hampton and Zeller’s script also baffles audiences, leaving us wondering where the truth lies, what’s real and what’s imagined, and who to trust.
The daughter Anne is played by Jenny Belsey, with a largely blank palette – a woman exhausted by circumstance, with only the energy for just the odd flicker of emotion at the edges of her face.
Neil Auker, Jo Parker Sessions, Lauren Baston and Trevor Burton support in an intersection of roles, also serving as stagehands and conspiring in the gradual whitewashing of Chris Bealey and Phil Williamson’s set, from the cozy Paris apartment to the cold clinical necessity of a home of care “.
Bealey’s direction does a good job of getting the ball rolling, balancing Andre’s weaponized sarcasm with the pathos of his situation and keeping the audience on their toes for the entire 45-hour runtime.
It’s not an easy watch, but a very rewarding one.
The father continues at the Sewell Barn Theater until March 12.