This outstanding play from French playwright Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton, stunned audiences at The Ustinov last year and it is a great privilege to have the opportunity to witness this production once again.

  

Kenneth Cranham continues to deliver a powerhouse performance as Andre, the father slowly losing control in the grips of dementia. He spirals through his tortuously confusing world capturing moments of tenderness and terror in equal measure.

The looped, broken music frames the fragments of memory whilst the ever decreasing set reflects his confused mind. Claire Skinner as Anne, his much maligned daughter fights to keep the world together, her love for Andre frequently rebuked; their silences speaking volumes.

This is an excellent cast, Colin Tierney as Pierre, wanting life to be simpler openly irritated by Andre’s presence and his repetition of “understand” reflecting just the opposite, fuelling further tensions.

Issues surrounding dementia are caught in fleeting snap shots; the potential for abuse, the huge burden that caring brings to a relationship and quite how to make the right decisions for those living with the condition against the overwhelming guilt of not coping.

This is a play told with great respect and dignity capturing moments of love, fear and loss. The inability to recognise his daughter alongside the cries of “Who exactly am I?” from the towering father figure brings a moment of crushing loss and yet he is also a man who believes himself to have been a tap dancer and circus entertainer. 

Zeller has penned a script that creates a whirlwind of emotional responses and most importantly ensures an equal lightness of touch that makes the production one that deserves all the accolades available.

  

**** (4 Stars)

Petra Schofield