CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

The Father at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre – review

PUBLISHED: 14:03 01 April 2016 | UPDATED: 14:03 01 April 2016

Kenneth Cranham plays the role with gentle perfection (Photo: Simon Annand)

Kenneth Cranham plays the role with gentle perfection (Photo: Simon Annand)


As our aging population lives longer, so the chances of us knowing someone with dementia increases, and hence The Father, a sensitive but honest play by the Frenchman Florian Zeller, will speak to most of us. Transferring to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, straight from the West End, this is a clever production that strikes an emotional cord without ever being mawkish.

Christopher Hampton’s translation into English loses none of Zeller’s acute observations and stays true to his respectful ability to walk in the shoes of a man whose mind is tumbling down the terrifying waterfall of dementia. ‘The Father’ is a man called Andre who lives in a chic Parisian apartment and obsesses about his missing watch and is surprised by his daughter concern about his welfare. He says, “I feel like I am losing my leaves, they are dropping off one by one.”

Kenneth Cranham plays the role with gentle perfection. When we first meet Andre, he is spritely and amusingly cantankerous, an elderly man who seems on the surface, quite able to continue living alone. But the ensuing banter and interaction with his daughter gives us clues to his inner confusion, and her concern is apparent and understandable. Amanda Drew as his daughter Anne portrays the agonizing dilemma of how to help a parent suffering from dementia. She loves her father, but feels she cannot give up her life for him. She moves him in with her and her husband on a temporary basis, but the strain on them all is tangible.

Director James Macdonald cleverly puts the audience through their mental paces and we begin to wonder is it actually Andre who is confused, or are we ourselves missing something? Each short scene is interspersed with complete darkness and rapid, almost frantic, piano playing of Bach which includes stumbling notes as the story unfolds. Like the mind of a person with progressive dementia it skips a beat, falters a little and slightly slips off track before getting back on course. Relating to the gradual crumbling of Andre’s mind, it is painfully effective and the moments of darkness give us time to ponder on the out-of-kilter sequence of events on stage - did they actually happen, or was it something we misunderstood?

The joy of the script is that it tells the story crispy, cleanly and not a word is wasted. It is an honest 90 minutes of theatre - poignant, yet with elements of farce amongst the tragedy of a very touching, everyday tale about the relationship between an elderly man and his daughter.

Tony Award nominee Kenneth Cranham reprises his unforgettable performance in the West End for this UK tour - joined by a brilliant cast of Amanda Drew, Rebecca Charles, Brian Doherty and Jade Williams.

• The Father plays at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford until Saturday April 2. Box office 01483 440000 /

More from Surrey Life

Thu, 10:52

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wed, 16:05

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tue, 10:53

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tue, 10:47

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tue, 10:41

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Mon, 14:32

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Mon, 12:56

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Mon, 12:13

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search