Father by A. Strindberg @ The Lion and Unicorn Theatre
The final performance of Shohidor Rahman's sensitive adaptation of Strindberg's
classic tale of an army captain driven insane by his wife's machinations
ended with rapturous applause. And thoroughly deserved it was too.
Adolf ( played by Llewellyn St.David) is an old army captain who becomes
locked in an ultimately mortal battle with his own wife Laura (Clara Anderson)
over the upbringing of their daughter (Michelle Miller). Laura, in an ingenious
yet unspeakably cruel move, manages to plant a seed of doubt in Adolf's
head over the true identity of their daughter's paternity that will
in the end blossom into an insanity born of uncertainty.
The play is a damning critique of the institution of marriage, the institution
of the church and of the institution of medicine. And, of course, of the
duplicity of Woman. Towards the end of his torment, Adolf muses "To
eat, or to be eaten. That is the question". Unfortunately, his realisation
of the cruel nature of life comes too late to win back either
the heart of his daughter or his sanity.
Clara Anderson, is stunning in her role as Laura, the devilish matriarch
who will stop at nothing in her quest to gain control of her house and
her daughter. She exudes a chilling mixture of feigned innocence and impossible
cruelty. Linda Large, who plays the nervous and guilt-ridden maid, also
deserves a mention for her convincing performance. As the only one who
now-insane Adolf trusts, it falls to her to complete the ultimate act of
treachery, which is to deceive him into putting on a straight jacket.
The show, however, is stolen by the protagonist Llewellyn St.David.
The lack of any real distinction between stage and audience makes his unnervingly
realistic journey into the depths of insanity as disconcerting for the
members of the audience as it is for those of his family, and the line
between the two seems to disappear into thin air. The mix of fear and
compassion he induces in the audience makes Strindberg's point all the
more pertinent: that this is a collective crime for which we are all guilty.