By Florian Zeller.
Translated by Christopher Hampton.
The Kiln Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7JR to 6 April.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 328 1000
Review: William Russell 26 February
A compelling drama about fathers and sons
Nicolas is a deeply disturbed teenager. His parents are divorced, he lives with Anne, his ther. Pierre, his father has remarried and has a baby son by his second wife. He has been staying away from school, pretending to attend, and Anne is finding his behaviour upsetting and potentially dangerous. He seems incapable of explaining what is wrong, but it is decided he should live with his father. But he remains a lost boy, self harming,still pretending to go to school, and prone to violent moments. Florian Zeller’s play is gripping, the performances are first rate and Christopher Hampton, who has translated six of Zeller’s plays has produced literate and fluent dialogue. The most recent Zeller play seen in London was The Height of the Storm at Wyndham’s. It was a puzzling piece about dementia, love and betrayal and this play is equally one to confuse and it also goes in unexpected directions.
It has been handsome staged in a white box of a room with doors with no handles for exits and a back wall which folds back to reveal a grand piano and part of a rather elegant living room. This may not be the West End but Zeller is not being short changed by production or the cast. It is also ambigious about just who the son of the title is.
Nicolas maybe suffered his breakdown after his parents got divorced because of the loss of the family nest in which he was happy, but on the other hand Pierre had a dreadful relationship with his father which has affected his life badly, something John Light’s on the edge performance makes perfectly clear. He is every bit as fraught as Laurie Kynaston’s Nicholas and arguably even madder.
Amanda Abbington makes Anne a warm and unhappy woman who cannot understand why she is unable to console her child in the normal ways, and Amanda Okafor as his stepmother manages not to play the wicked interloper and partial cause of the problem which the text might allow, but someone more concerned with protecting her own son from this cuckoo in the next. Kynaston catches all the teenage moods, defiance, irrationality, unhappiness perfectly and his is probably the performance of the night, but it is a close run thing. This the is third in a trilogy of family plays by Zeller but whereas The father seen at Bath in 2014 and The Father at the Kiln two years ago focused on the individual this one is really about two sons and what a father can do to affect how a son grows up. As the play ends all seems finally well – but it is not.
Anne: Amanda Abbington.
Nicolas: Laurie Kynaston.
Pierre: John Light.
Nurse: Oseloka Obi.
Sofia: Amaka Okafor.
Doctor: Martin Turner.
Director: Michael Longhurst.
Designer: Lizzie Clachan.
Lighting Designer: Lee Curran.
Composer & Sound Designer: Isobel Waller-Bridge.
Production photography: Marc Brenner.