by Florian Zeller
Directed by Mary Allen
15th - 23rd March 2019 in the Theatre Upstairs.
Part of the Father: Sunday 21st October 2pm - 5pm in the South Hall NVT
Other characters: Saturday 24th November 2pm - 6pm and Sunday 25th November 2pm - 5pm in the South Hall NVT
Andre, a man with dementia, is wrestling to control or even understand his daily life. The audience shares Andre’s uncertainty about his multiple confusions, as the play is seen from Andre’s point of view. Is the action taking place in Andre’s flat or his daughter Anne's? Is Anne about to abandon him to live in London with her lover, or does she remain in Paris, taking her dad in to live with her? And what happened to his watch? His daughter and her partner are each played by two different actors, so Andre is never sure who he’s talking to. Different items of furniture keep appearing and disappearing on the set, until finally the stage is bare, apart from a hospital bed in a care home. Scenes are played and replayed, the action going backwards and forwards. When I saw The Father, I was completely blown away by the quality of the writing, and the way in which the audience is effectively inside Andre’s head: rather than being ‘told’ about Andre’s dementia we experience it with him, and this in turn makes the play both funnier and more moving.
A key to the play’s success will be ability of Andre to engage with each reality presented to him,
puzzling how to connect it with what he previously thought. The other characters will each be
inhabiting their own reality, even if this differs within a scene, and they must be able to convey the non-negotiable nature of that reality in conversation with Andre.
ANDRE - THE FATHER
Andre has dementia, he inhabits a world of contradictions: circumstances continually perplex him, and the audience sees him as thoughtful, creative, trying to make sense of what is happening, often holding two or more possible realities in his head, confused as to which - if either - is the right one. He can come across as sweetly eccentric; he can be very charming, he is capable of both a fierce lucidity and a senile cantankerousness. Despite his frequent bewilderment he can sense the emotional realities of those around him: the love of his daughter Anne, and the resentment shown by her partner Pierre. Playing age anywhere between late 60s and early 80s.
Anne is Andre’s daughter. She’s kind, frustrated, loves her father very much, feels guilty she’s prepared to consider putting him in a care home. At times the audience has the impression she’s at the end of her tether. She veers between exasperation and compassion, one night even having a fantasy that she’s murdered Andre. At any stage in the action she has a firm, non-negotiable grasp of her reality, which she tries to persuade Andre to accept. During the play Anne’s reality changes, but each time she inhabits the reality of the moment with complete conviction. The play pivots around Anne’s relationship with Andre, her father.
Playing age dependent on who is cast as the father, probably around late 30s and early 40s.
Pierre is Anne’s partner, often not recognised by Andre. He doesn’t feel much affection for Andre, and is emphatic that he should go into a care home. He is quite emotionally withdrawn, from Andre and at times from Anne, although at other times he’s very affectionate towards her. He can be hostile towards Andre, even sinister when he implicitly threatens him. Anne jokes that both she and Andre are sometimes frightened of Pierre. Playing age mid 40s.
Laura is the carer. She is affectionate and tolerant, even when Andre mocks her for speaking in a silly voice, as though Andre is retarded. Sometimes she engages with Andre’s reality, although she’s astonished when Andre delivers a long speech saying he doesn’t need her to look after him and she can bugger off. Playing age around 30.
The Woman has two roles. First she plays Anne, profoundly confusing Andre who doesn’t recognise her. She inhabits a shifting reality during which characters change, events contradict themselves. She is very loving to Andre. In addition, near the end, she comes on in the role of Laura, Andre’s new carer, then the role of the nurse in the care home, kind towards Andre but also briskly efficient. Playing age early 30s.
The Man is the other actor playing the role of Pierre. He is kind in a cursory sort of way, replying laconically to Andre’s confusions about his role in Anne’s life. Later he is threatening Andre and is abusive. He has another role in the final scene as the doctor in the care home.
Playing age mid 40s.
We will be using the Faber and Faber edition of the play.
We are still looking for volunteers to help with the production, especially with costume, set building, operations and backstage.
If you are interested in getting involved, please email Uli, the Production Manager.
About Mary Allen
The Father will be her second full-length production for the NVT. In April 2017 she directed 'The Real Inspector Hound', which was performed in the Studio. In addition she has directed twelve musicals in Suffolk, working with large casts of amateur and professional actors.
If you have any questions about the play or the production, please do get in touch with Mary.