The Father has been a long awaited play at the Cheltenham Everyman so my hopes were high. They had been advertising the play for months and the flyers covered in five star reviews were all around town. And with the topic of the play so close to my heart I was desperate to see it.
The play follows the relationships around 80 year old Andre, played by award winning actor Kenneth Cranham, as he faces a serious bout of Alzheimers. His loving daughter cares for him for days.
The story is shown from Andre’s point of view, you see the world through his mind and eyes. This allows massive amounts of sympathy for the character as you are given such a clear yet in-depth understanding of how Alzheimers patients experience day to day life.
The unique structure and format of the play emphasises the symptoms of the disease. Lots of character swapping and out of order scenes illustrated the loss of time perspective and difficulty to recognise and remember familiar faces that occurs when experiencing dementia. To add to this furniture was often moved and lost throughout the play to give an indication to how confused Andre would be feeling.
Another way dementia is expressed is via the use of music and lighting throughout scene changes. The scenes finish abruptly with a black out and the outline of lights would light up to signify time passing, but accompanying this the music jumps and repeats after appropriate scenes, more so in the times he was struggling more.
Sympathy is not once asked for, yet Andre receives it endlessly, due to the view of the world from his eyes. You see how things make sense in his world but don’t fit with the truth. The striking realism of the play allows you to see the obsessive, paranoid, angry, childish and lost sides of Alzheimers.
The perfect balance of enough cryptic metaphors and Pinter-esque themes to get brain going, yet real and relatable enough to pull on your heart strings.