by Florian Zeller translated by Christopher Hampton
Tricycle Theatre 269 Kilburn High Road NW6 7JR To 12 March 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2pm; Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 9 Feb (+ Touch Tour 6pm).
Captioned 25 Feb.
Post-show Discussion 2 Feb.
Runs: 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7328 -1000.
Review: Carole Woddis 26 January.
Audience and characters stylishly share emotions and confusions.
After The Father comes its companion piece, The Mother. Having carried off acting honours with Kenneth Cranham in The Father (shortly to be revived in the West End), the Theatre Royal Bath and the Tricycle continue their showcasing of French playwright and novelist Florian Zeller. And why not? Zeller is currently one of the hottest theatre properties going. A third play, The Truth, comes to the Chocolate Factory in March.
The Mother, however, if you’ve seen The Father, is an almost too-close-for-comfort stylistic reprise. Once again we are locked in to a one room set; once again scenes replay with carefully calibrated variations; and once again, as with The Father’s concern with a mind disintegrating from Alzheimers, The Mother highlights an ageing phenomenon, the maternal one known as `empty nest’ syndrome – the daily care of off-spring, replaced, when they leave home as adults, by paralysis and emptiness.
Remarkable concerns for a young man. Zeller’s style, with its repetitions, cleverly conceived disorientations and vaguely threatening behaviours, can become oddly irritating, if impressively skilful. One of the main reasons therefore for seeing The Mother is to watch Gina McKee.
Quietly, McKee has somehow steadily acquired the status of `national treasure’. Here, as Anne, the mother, she charts an increasing mental fragility and collapse with mellifluous subtlety, observed by the equally excellent Richard Clothier as Peter, her husband, alert to every move in Laurence Boswell’s unnerving production with its heightened sense of light and sound.
A study in emotional confusion for audience and characters alike, where does the truth lie? How much of what we see are aspects of Anne’s imagination or delusion; how much reality?
Like a feline stalking the undergrowth, McKee tracks Anne’s aggressive, cruelly comic truths and smothering mother-love, beautifully counter-balanced by William Postlethwaite as her too much loved, desperate to be free, son, Nicholas.
Classy stuff, Zeller’s Father and Mother are not just the story of two families, but, as with Pinter, transcend themselves to become generic archetypes – if distinctively middle-class ones.
Transfer written all over this one, I’d say.
The Father/Peter: Richard Clothier.
The Mother/Anne: Gina McKee.
The Girl/Elodie: Frances McNamee.
The Son/Nicholas: William Postlethwaite.
Director: Laurence Boswell.
Designer: Mark Bailey.
Lighting: Colin Grenfell.
Sound/Composer: Jon Nicholls.
Assistant director: Jennifer Bakst.
A Theatre Royal Bath production, first staged in the Ustinov Studio last year, 2015
First performance at the Tricycle Theatre, London 21 January 2016.