There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at Everyman Theatre on Monday 9 May 2016, when the highly acclaimed play, The Father, opened in Cheltenham.
Shining a light on what it’s like to live with dementia, the play depicted an 80-year-old man’s desperate struggle to hold onto some control and independence; and his daughter’s emotional battle as she faces a tough decision about what to do with him.
The play managed to welcome the audience into a familiar living room, with common themes of familial love, while simultaneously totally isolating them with ever-changing characters, disappearing props and repetitive dialogue, depicting what it’s like to suffer from dementia.
Similarly, the show, which ran for over an hour without an interval, saw scenes play out before cutting to black with stuttering music, then jumping back to the play mid-scene, throwing the audience off completely, just as they were getting to grips with the plot.
Even the actors were brimming with tears as the final curtain closed on what was one of the most emotional experiences at Everyman Theatre.
Having recently won an Olivier award for Best Male Actor in The Father, Kenneth Cranham excelled as the main character, with audience members standing to applaud him after the final emotional scene.
Similarly, his daughter, played by Amanda Drew, perfectly encapsulated the sentiment of the play, embodying everything from heartbreak and love, to anger and exhaustion.
Showing audiences what it’s like to mix reality and dreams up in your mind, as well as confusing people for others, the characters were interchangeable, with Amanda Drew playing the daughter in one scene, before being replaced in the next.
Kenneth Cranham said in a recent interview with SoGlos, ‘I actually had a letter from a man who saw the play recently who thanked me as he could finally understand what his own father went through.’
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, and while tackling some tough issues, the play was packed with gentle humour and heart-warming scenes, while Kenneth Cranham demonstrated his tap-dancing skills and charming ways.
With audiences reaching for the tissues throughout the play, I think everyone could empathise with at least one of the characters, with even the actors brimming with tears as the final curtain closed on what was one of the most emotional experiences at Everyman Theatre.
By Alice Lloyd
Wednesday 11 May 2016
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