REVIEW: The Father (Oldham Coliseum, Oldham)

Kenneth Alan Taylor in The Father at Oldham Coliseum © Joel C Fildes
Kenneth Alan Taylor in The Father at Oldham Coliseum
© Joel C Fildes
upstaged rating: 

It is rare that we experience dementia from the perspective of the person who is struggling with it, rather we experience it from the viewpoint of family members and carers. This idea is obviously even more difficult to dramatise in a theatre. In The Father, written by Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton, Oldham Coliseum triumph in presenting a highly engaging but charming, heart-rending though witty, interpretation of Andre’s struggle with the disease.

Patrick Connellan’s raised set design is intelligently reminiscent of a Polaroid picture. The stage is framed almost like a photograph – perfectly suggestive of Andre’s struggle with memory. A deconstructed piano lies at the fore, hinting at Andre’s love of music and his attempt to make sense of the confusing world that envelopes him. A stunning piano soundtrack by Lorna Munden accompanies the cast as they adjust the stage around Andre. Confused and his senses heightened, he can hear the clank of cutlery and plates clashing and we feel his pain and confusion. Kevin Shaw has catered for every detail in this accomplished production. Stunning and painstakingly beautiful.

Kenneth Alan Taylor’s performance as Andre is nothing short of tremendous, charting one man and his family as they struggle with the grip of dementia. Giving a beautifully nuanced performance – managing to hint at the insight he still has into his condition, while giving depth to the rich and lively life he has had, he fleshes out the resilient fiery character that continues to push up against the disease. Kerry Peers gives a strong and emotive performance as Andre’s daughter Anne, always striving to do the right thing for her father despite the pressure she faces from her husband Pierre, played solidly by John Elkington. 

As I looked around the Oldham Coliseum at the end of the show, it was clear to see that so many people had been moved by The Father. Two ladies sat in front of me wiped the tears from their eyes as others appeared to be sharing stories, clearly deeply touched by this phenomenal production. This is a flawless production that gets us talking, sharing and understanding dementia together.

-Kristy Stott

The Father plays at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday 1st July 2017 and you can get your tickets here.


REVIEW – Noises Off (Octagon Theatre, Bolton)

© Ian Tilton
© Ian Tilton
Date: 13 june 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Noises Off, written by Michael Frayn, takes us behind the scenes to witness the backstage shenanigans of a shambolic theatre company. With less than twenty-four hours to go until their opening night of ‘Nothing On’ everything that can go wrong, is going hopelessly wrong. When the play opens the cast are in the throes of their dress rehearsal…or is it their technical rehearsal…nobody really seems to know. However, one thing is for certain – there are plenty of laughs in this chaotic and hilarious comedy about this dysfunctional theatre company.

Director David Thacker pulls out all the stops in his final production as artistic director at Bolton’s Octagon. After six years at the helm he is leaving to take up the prestigious position of Professor of Theatre at the University of Bolton enabling him to ‘engage with new generations of talent’ while still continuing to direct two productions, as Associate Artistic Director, each season for the Octagon.

Designed by Ruari Murchison, the intricacy of the set is highly impressive and the scene changes even more so. The play runs for just over 3 hours which includes two 25 minute intervals during which the backstage crew completely switch the set around. Although these set changes may seem slightly excessive, many of the audience seemed to enjoy watching the production crew turn the stage around so quickly. Also, considering the themes of the play it was very apt that the audience were able to have a glimpse into the real-life workings of a theatre and all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

The cast of nine all bring high energy and impeccable timing to the stage with notable performances from Jessica Baglow (Poppy), Colin Connor (Freddy), Paula Jennings (Brooke), Barbara Drennan (Belinda), James Quinn (Tim) and James Dutton (Garry), Charlotte Cornwell (Dotty) and Alan Taylor (Selsdon). Philandering and harassed Director Lloyd Dallas, played by Rob Edwards attempts to get the show on its feet despite Dotty’s missing sardines, Selsdon’s drunken antics and doors that stick or won’t close properly.

Noises Off has all of the trademarks of a superb British farce, providing the perfect closure to the Octagon’s theatre season and David Thacker’s position within it. There is certainly a lot to enjoy in this classic comedy and judging by the laughter in the auditorium on the night I attended, it’s a big hit with the Bolton audience too.


-Kristy Stott

 Noises Off runs at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton until 4 July 2015. 

Notable dates include: Meet the Director and cast Monday 29 June and Investigate Day (a full day event around the themes and issues of the play) on Saturday 27 June. There is an Audio Described performance on Wednesday 24 June, British Sign Language performance on Thursday 11 June, and Captioned Performance on Thursday 2 July.