by August Strindberg new version by Laurie Slade.
Belgrade Theatre: Tkts 024 7655 3055.
Runs: 1h 40m: no interval: till 14th April.
Start: 7.45: Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Review: Jan Pick 3 April.
“It is a wise father that knows his own child”; a riveting reassessment.
In the centenary of Strindberg’s death the Belgrade Theatre is presenting a riveting reassessment of ‘The Father’. In this dynamic new version Laurie Slade remains true to the late 19th century setting, but brings a 21st century consciousness to the exploration of the disintegrating relationship of a couple whose marriage is already teetering on the brink and whose final battle for control over their only child’s future has tragic consequences.
The themes of gender conflict, religion and women’s rights remain, but Slade has sensitively mined an underlying intense love and need between husband and wife implicit in the text, and his cast rise to the challenges magnificently. Joe Dixon, makes a fascinating Adolf, the husband manipulated into doubting his sanity, bringing out the complexities of a brilliant mind under emotional strain; while Katy Stephens is deeply impressive as his frustrated and manipulative wife, Laura, intent on destroying the certainties on which he structures his life. When into his general suspicion and distrust of women she sows the seed of doubt about the paternity of their child the structure of their relationship topples. It is no small task to make a character that is deliberately driving her husband to madness sympathetic, yet she achieves it, and her tragedy lies in the wasteland that she creates of her marriage, and the suggestion that the price she will pay will be high. One of the main achievements of this production is to convince us of the depth of emotion between the main protagonists which has tragically warped into their current battle.
Circling around the central relationship, there are well judged and effective performances from Staten Cousins-Rowe, Laurence Kennedy, Barbara Young – particularly affecting in the final moments – and Patrick Toomey. Special mention must be made of Holly Earl who makes an assured and appealing stage debut as young Bertha, the innocent cause of the conflict.
This is an evening that begins on a slow burn and ends in conflagration.
Nojd: Staten Cousins-Rowe.
Captain: Joe Dixon.
Pastor: Laurence Kennedy.
Laura: Katy Stephens.
Doctor Ostermark: Patrick Toomey.
Nurse: Barbara Young.
Bertha: Holly Earl.
Director: Joe Harmston.
Designer: Simon Scullion.
Lighting: Mike Robertson.
Sound/Composer: Matthew Bugg.