Kenneth Cranham and Claire Skinner
in The Father at the Tricycle Theatre, London
c Simon Annand
015 – The Father, by Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton
Published 12th November 2020
Florian Zeller’s award-winning play The Father presents a piercing portrait of a family living with dementia. Anyone who has witnessed the cruel effects of the disease will recognise painful truths in the portrayal of the father, Andre, and his daughter, Anne as they struggle to navigate the practical and emotional challenges. The play gains its unsettling power not just from the accuracy of its observations, but also from its inventive dramatic form, where the unities of time and space are disrupted in a way that results in our vicariously experiencing Andre’s mental confusion.
The Father premiered in Paris in 2012, winning the 2014 Moliere Award for Best Play. It translated into English by Christopher Hampton and opened at the Theatre Royal Bath in 2014 before transferring to the Tricycle Theatre in London and then to the West End for two runs. It was also produced on Broadway in 2016, and has won both Olivier and Tony awards for best actor in the title role for Kenneth Cranham and Frank Langella respectively.
The Father has also now been made into a feature film, directed by Florian Zeller and co-written with Christopher Hampton, and with a stellar cast including Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell and Olivia Williams. The film was shown at the Sundance and Toronto film festivals earlier this year and will be released in the UK in January 2021, all being well.
I’m delighted and honoured to welcome none other than Sir Christopher Hampton as my guest on this episode of the podcast.
Sir Christopher Hampton
Sir Christopher is a renowned playwright and screenwriter whose plays have so far garnered four Tony Awards, three Oliviers, and five Evening Standard awards. His work for film and television has won him an Oscar for the screenplay based on his play Les Liaisons Dangereuse, as well as two BAFTAs, a special jury award at Cannes, the Prix Italia and a Writers’ Guild of America. Space will not permit us to list all of his work, other than to reference a few notable titles from his own plays, which include Total Eclipse, The Philanthropist, and Tales from Hollywood, translations of classics from Ibsen, Chekhov, Moliere, as well as Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage and Art. His screenplays include Carrington, The Quiet American, and Atonement, for which he received another Oscar nomination.
In addition to The Father he has translated no fewer than four more of Florian Zeller’s plays, including The Mother, The Son, The Truth, The Lie, and The Height of the Storm.
Sir Christopher was knighted in the New Year’s Honours list in January 2020 for services to drama.
Our brief Footnotes to our episode on The Father expand on the subjects of the changing set in the play, and the significance of Andre’s watch.
David Mamet’s play Oleanna about the abuse of patriarchal power caused intense controversy and divided audiences when it was first produced in 1992. It is now being revived at the Theatre Royal Bath. How will we see the sensitive issues it raises differently nearly 30 years on in the light of the #MeToo movement? The acclaimed director of this new production, Lucy Bailey, joins me to explore this explosive work.
Note: this episode contains some strong language.
Winsome Pinnock’s powerful new play Rockets and Blue Lights explores the continuing legacy of the slave trade by allowing the lost voices of the past to merge into our current re-examination of history and black identity. The play won the 2019 Alfred Fagon Award and was in preview at the Manchester Royal Exchange earlier in 2020 when the Covid pandemic cruelly closed our theatres. I’m especially honoured during Black History Month to talk with Winsome Pinnock about her wonderful play.
Photo: Wendell Pierce as Willy Loman at the Young Vic (c. Brinkoff Mogenburg)
Arthur Miller’s portrait of an ordinary American family in post-war Brooklyn has become an enduring presence on stages around the world and in educational curriculums. The splintering of the Loman family became emblematic of the personal costs and challenges of the American Dream, but Miller’s play has also remained popular and relevant because of its innovative form and emotional power. We’re delighted to be joined by Dr Stephen Marino, founding editor of The Arthur Miller Journal to explore this dramatic classic.
Before the theatres went dark this month I was lucky enough to see Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Bridge, and spend more than seven hours in thrall to Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the National. Plus, some thoughts on what we miss when there is no theatre.
Another great mix of shows this month, from Tom Stoppard’s new play, to Ibsen, Beckett and newer plays in smaller London venues.
The January roundup included both classic plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, as well as recent musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Girl from the North Country …