The Father is a play originally written in French by Florian Zeller in 2012 as, unsurprisingly, Le Père. It is translated into English, and performed at the Circa Theatre. The cast contains a bunch of the usual Wellington acting mafia - Gavin Rutherford, Harriet Prebble, Bronwyn Turei and Simon Leary; with the lead roles played by Jeffrey Thomas and Danielle Mason. The play deals with dementia, as the central character tries to deal with what seem to be – to him and to us, the audience – a series of confusing vignettes.
The central premise of the story seems to be that André, suffering from dementia, is resisting having a carer in his Paris flat, provided by his daughter Anne. Anne no longer has the time or resilience to deal with her father’s illness, and wants to move to London with her lover, Pierre. Or does she? Is this all just part of a plan to get André out of his flat and into a home, so she can have the flat? As the scenes come and go, the same characters are played by different actors, and given different names, which adds to the confusion. Over time, the appearance of the flat and furniture also changes – has he moved in with Anne? Some of the scenes are replayed, sometimes exactly, sometimes subtly differently. Time doesn’t move in the linear fashion we take for granted. As André’s world closes in the furnishings and décor of the flat become a uniform grey, as one by one, the pictures and furniture disappear. The fate of Anne’s sister, Elise – referred to throughout, but never seen onstage – is also gradually revealed. The play gives a sense of isolation and also the antagonism of André, as he is determined that the world is conspiring against him.
There is no tidy ending, no denouement. It ends with a whimper, rather than a bang.