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Posts Tagged ‘Kenneth Cranham’

Yes, it’s a play not a scientific theory. You can always rely on Simon Stephens for something different – he must have the most diverse body of work of any playwright. Here, he uses the concepts of uncertainty and unpredictability to tell the story of the most unlikely relationship between a 42-year-old woman and a 75-year-old man. It’s a very intuitive piece that I wasn’t sure about at first, but it drew me in and I left the theatre with a warm glow!

It’s beautifully set and lit by Bunny Christie and Paule Constable within a box of light, like a James Turrell installation, that changes size, shape and colour from scene to scene. There’s a lovely soundscape too, with music by Nils Fram. In the first scene, London Butcher Alex Priest meets American school receptionist Georgie Burns at a train station. From here, their extraordinary relationship unfolds from a chance encounter, unravelling of the truth, a mutual fascination with some brittleness to a romantic liaison and a full-blown relationship. At first it seems implausible, but somehow becomes believable. I put this down to superb chemistry between two fine actors.

In Marianne Elliott’s delicate, sensitive staging, Kenneth Cranham and Anne-Marie Duff give the sort of uninhibited performances that deliver the believability of the relationship. Every time it turns a corner, implausibility returns but is then dispelled. Even though it runs less than ninety minutes, it does leave you satisfied.

I would have preferred to see it in a space more suitable, like the Dorfman, Royal Court, Donmar or Almeida, and more accessibly priced for a one-act two-hander, but in other ways it’s good that the West End can support work like this.

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A play about dementia. Depressing? Well, yes – as people get older, it’s often their greatest fear, more so than any physical condition – but its also insightful and not as heavy as you might think.

What’s so clever about Florian Zeller’s play, translated by Christopher Hampton, is that by messing with your head you get to peep inside the head of the demetia sufferer and it helps you understand what it must be like to experience this condition. It starts very straightforwardly, but soon becomes disorientating. Andre’s daughter Anne may or may not have a husband, may or may not be moving to London, may or may not have a sister. Our confusion parallels Andre’s confusion and we begin to understand, and dread, his predicament.

In a series of short, sharp scenes we see the condition deteriorate through the eyes of its victim. Characters and their back stories change and the room in which it is set changes as he moves home. It’s a very original way of conveying the agony of the condition for both the sufferer and their family. The final scene when Andre is in a rest home is devastating. It’s beautifully written / translated, with every moment contributing to the story and it’s extraordinary how much understanding you accumulate in less than 90 minutes. There is humour as well as frustration and sadness to lighten the tone without disrespect.

James McDonald’s direction is very sympathetic to the subject matter, as are the six excellent performances. As Andre, Kenneth Cranham navigates the decline very delicately and movingly. Clare Skinner gives a nuanced performance as Anne, full of love for her father whilst struggling to balance the demands of caring with her need to live her own life.

A subject rarely spoken of is given a thoughtful and illuminating presentation, something sometimes only theatre can so.

 

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