"Temporary Solution to Memory Loss"
by Tim Mottershead for remotegoat on 17/06/17

Last night Oldham Coliseum produced a ground breaking drama by youthful French playwright Florian Zeller in a translation by Christopher Hampton. The play opens in the Paris apartment of aged Andre (Kenneth Alan Taylor). He is complaining that nothing happens. Accused of creating a ‘scene’ with the carer, he claims he can’t remember the incident, and, to cap it all, he’s lost his watch (again!). In addition, his daughter is about to move to London to set up home with her new chap. Or does he live in his daughter’s flat, along with her husband of 10 years? Confused? You would be if (along with 850,000 people in the UK) you suffered from dementia like Andre.

Why is it ground breaking? Because it is unafraid to tackle one of the major issues of contemporary life all too often swept under the carpet, namely, an aging population; their carers; and specifically dementia - is a condition for which there is currently no cure. The central issue, therefore, is care: and how and who administers it.

If what I’ve described so far gives the impression of something worthy, but rather heavy going, please be assured it isn’t! This is entertainment at its finest. But how so? By presenting parallel/alternative, indeed fractured/splintered, realities almost entirely from the point of view of the protagonist’s ongoing decline. This allows him the freedom to be an engineer in one moment, a tap dancer the next, whilst managing to offer an insight into the condition with both hilarity and pathos. For the sufferer it presents a confused world, for the family involved, an often fraught one.

A towering central performance was enhanced by a uniformly excellent cast featuring Kerry Peers as the daughter, and Jo Mousley as the carer, supported by Colin Connor, John Elkington, and Helen Kay. Special mention should be made of the deceptive set, designed by Patrick Connellan. What on first acquaintance appeared to be an ordinary room underlined different times of day via a subtle use of lighting by Douglass Kuhrt. The lighting played a more crucial role by revealing other rooms in the splintered realities of Andre’s mind. At the very front of the stage was an exploded/collapsed piano, which adumbrated the gentle piano sounds that formed the incidental music (the sound design being by Lorna Munden).

Besides the usual biographies and credits, a handsome programme brochure also contained an insightful interview with the translator, and a helpful summary of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. There was also a short tribute to the recently deceased local thespian and Coliseum stalwart Roy Barraclough.

The staging of this play was not just a brave choice by director Kevin Shaw, but a triumphant one. After a two week run in Oldham, ‘The Father’ transfers to Harrogate.

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