Ageing has long been the subject of stage and screen, its various effects dealt with in numerous ways. Shakespeare wrote about it, perhaps most memorably in As You Like It. And 400+ years later, Florian Zeller’s The Father shines further light on the topic, thanks to its unique depiction of a man’s slow descent into dementia. After award-winning runs at the West End and on Broadway, The Father has come to The Fugard Theatre.
Acting stalwart Marius Weyers plays Andre, whose recent spout of verbal abuse towards a caregiver causes concern for his daughter Anne (Anthea Thompson). He moves in with her and her insensitive partner Pierre (Brent Palmer of A Steady Rain). A new caregiver, Laura (Amy Louise Wilson), is brought in, while Anne and Pierre, who will be moving to London soon, decide what the next step should be for Andre.
Such a description makes The Father sound straightforward. But we’re watching it through Andre’s eyes, and come to see the world as he sees it: disorientating and quickly fleeting.
Two other cast members appear at various points, which is where the confusion comes in. Emily Child (previously seen in The Emissary) and Nicholas Pauling (Clybourne Park and A Steady Rain) play Anne and her ex-husband Antoine in one scene. Nicholas then returns as Pierre, and Emily as Laura later.
The thing is…we, like Andre, don’t actually know where we are most of the time. We don’t recognise who we’re talking to, and we confuse one person with another. Certain scenes and bits of dialogue are repeated or recalled, each time with a particular variation. And at the end, there are only questions.
The production’s success at The Fugard is the result of numerous factors. Marius Weyers switches nimbly between confusion, anger, wit and, ultimately, tragic childishness. The strength of his performance, and those of his cast members, is complemented by inspired set and sound design, and expert direction by Greg Karvellas. All in all, The Father achieves a clever and realistic representation of a slowly decaying mind.
When Wednesday 23 November 2016 at 8 pm (Until 3 December 2016)
Where Fugard Theatre, Corner Harrington and Caledon Street, CBD
Cost R130 at Computicket
Contact +21 461 4554, [email protected], www.thefugard.com
Photography Daniel Rutland Manners