Jessica Osorio talks to us about directing this powerful play that highlights the complexities of dealing with dementia.
After the performance on Wednesday 6 February, there will be a Q&A at 9.45pm with an expert panel of researchers specialising in dementia at King’s College London, to discuss the sensitive issues raised by the play.
What drew you to this play?
I had read and seen several Florian Zeller plays, including this one, and found them interesting and thought-provoking. They’re not easy either, for the cast or for the audience, as it’s not immediately apparent what’s reality and what’s in Andre’s (the father’s) mind. Zeller doesn’t commit himself either, as he believes it is for the individual to make up their own mind.
Initially I was considering The Mother, but felt that this one had themes I could empathise with more; my parents are getting older, and close friends have parents who have been diagnosed with dementia. I also worked in clinical research specialising in dementia studies some years ago. Also like Constellations, which I very much enjoyed directing last year, it repeats scenes with slight variations.
How does it fit in with Florian Zeller’s other work?
All his plays look at issues that we can all understand or empathise with, even if we have no direct experience of them. They have humour at times but can also be upsetting for this reason. Zeller is influenced by Pinter and writes black comedies, though says that he always starts with something playful. He often repeats scenes quickly with slight and disorientating variations.
What themes does it explore?
Family relationships, ageing, care and resentment; loss, bereavement, obsession – but it’s not always as serious as it may sound!
What do you hope the audience will take away from the play?
As well as an enjoyable evening – there are laughs despite the subject matter – I would hope that the play gives a real feel for what it can mean to have dementia, both for the person affected and those around them, as well as making them think about universal experiences of loss and ageing.
Tell us about your cast
We have three members who have taken part in other shows at SLT: Kim, who plays Andre’s daughter Anne, Steve Anstee and Jen Nettles. Our three new members are Chris Lilly, Siannae Anderson and Will Everett, and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know them during the rehearsal process. Chris, playing Andre, is at the younger end of the casting bracket for the role, but that brings a different angle to the character – and reminds us that dementia can strike at any age.
The Father runs from 5 – 9 February at the Old Fire Station, and tickets are on sale here.