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
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 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. Congratulations to Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton who since we recorded this episode have won an Academy Award and a BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Father!
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.
One Podcast Two Plays! Carlo Goldoni’s Commedia dell’Arte classic A Servant to Two Masters and Richard Bean’s hilarious update One Man Two Guvnors. We explore all of the ingredients of the original play in the tradition of Commedia dell’Arte, as well as how Bean translated these so successfully into his smash hit at the National Theatre. Writer and director Justin Greene joins me to sample this multi-course theatrical banquet. (Commedia afficionados will appreciate the gourmet references!).
The dramatic tragedy of a wife who murders her own two sons in a desperate act of grief and revenge remains as disturbing and deeply moving as when it was written nearly 2,500 years ago. Medea by Euripides is timeless not only because of our fascination with Medea’s horrific crime, but for the poetry of its language, and its unflinching portrayal of a woman all but powerless in a patriarchal world. The play was recently revived at the National Theatre with a stunning performance by Helen McCrory in the title role, which is now available to view on the National Theatre at Home. I’m joined by renowned classical scholar Edith Hall to explore our enduring fascination with Medea.
The main characters in Nina Raine’s play Consent are barristers contesting a brutal rape case. As the case unfolds the lawyers’ marriages come unravelled and they themselves cross the line of honour or even of the law. Consent explores some of the most charged issues of our time: the sources of sexual betrayal and violence, the ambiguities of consent, and the failings of the justice system to account proportionally or sensitively with cases of sexual abuse. I am delighted and honoured to be joined in this episode by the author of Consent, Nina Raine, and by actor Adam James, who appeared in the National Theatre production in the role of Jake.
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 …