The Father

Reviewer's Rating

Florian Zeller’s award-winning play, The Father, has garnered critical acclaim across the globe in recent years. Debuting in Vancouver at the historic and intimate Cultch Theatre, The Search Party’s production of this tragi-comedy is poignant and deeply compelling. Kevin McNulty gives a nuanced, gripping and world-class performance as Andre, an elderly man navigating the cruel throes of dementia. While the granular details of his diagnosis and illness are not disclosed, The Father shines a human light on the reality of living with memory loss, when reality is in itself unreliable. Zeller powerfully implicates the audience in Andre’s perception of truth and takes us on an unsettling and at times disturbing journey, while simultaneously relieving us with intelligent humor and tender interactions.

The wider cast also play a key role in conveying dementia’s ripple effect of devastation. Jillian Fargey in particular does a wonderful job as Andre’s daughter and carer Anne, offering a fragile poise that is both unsettlingly relatable and heart wrenching to observe. Amir Ofek’s set design is effective in its graceful cleanliness, juxtaposing dramatically with the disorientating and muddled events that unfold on stage. The cast of six move fluidly around the set throughout 90 minutes of action, and it is Mindy Parfitt’s seamless direction that violently pulls the viewer along on one man’s futile yet urgent fight to retain his autonomy.

The Father is both brutally honest and intriguingly cryptic, and Zeller’s portrayal of dementia is thoughtful and challenging. The universal plight of ageing is a subject frequently engaged with in art and theatre, but the weight of The Father lies in its unique format and facilitation of empathy. With a first production as wonderful as this, The Search Party are most certainly one to watch going forwards.