Review – The Father – Trafalgar Studios

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So me: fan of Strindberg. So Traf Studio 2: great productions in a small space. What, then, was this stinker doing clogging up the place? Strindberg is an expert at detailing how two people – especially two married people – can make each other’s lives a living hell. And this was a perfect example of it: a middle aged married couple where the woman (June Watson) was actively scheming to make her husband (Alex Ferns)’s friends and associates think he has gone mad. Laura needs the Captain dead (but not by suicide!) or committed so that she can take over running the family, especially when it comes to determining the future of their daughter, Berta (Millie Thew). Amazingly, she’s taken a position of weakness and built it up to an attack position, from which, so it seems, one final mind game seems to throw The Captain over the edge – or at least enough to convince people he has actually gone crazy.

Long before this, though, I lost my ability to believe in anything happening in this wooden, malformed production. Nearly every single character was either poorly acted or just hopelessly limited in their ability to express more than two emotions. Berta: winsome. Nursie: stern but a cupcake inside. Wife: skin hung around a robot. At one point, looking at the well-heeled audience, I thought I’d stumbled into a preview performance where the actors were still struggling to gel; but no, they’d all fractured off into their own little worlds and not a single one seemed to actually occupy the same stage as anyone else (actually the preacher was fine and the soldier, and the doctor wasn’t horrible but still wasn’t believable). I thought maybe Strindberg had lost it, but no: the clunkiness in the dialogue had to go down to the adaptation (and thus I blame Laurie Slade) but ultimately the actors failed. Fern wasn’t horrible, although he was over the top too often; for him, I think the words he had to speak were what made his character seem silly rather than tragic. But over all, this was a terrible show that left me frustrated there was no interval and eight people between me and the door. Thank God it closes tonight.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, April 9, 2015.)

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