A giant of Australian theatre for over 50 years, John Bell makes a welcome return to the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) in the Australian premiere of The Father by French playwright Florian Zeller at the Wharf 1 Theatre from 19 August 2017.
The Father tells the story of André, a proud and intelligent man wrestling with the challenges of old age. Now 80 years old, André was once a tap dancer. He lives with his daughter Anne and her husband Antoine. Or was he an engineer whose daughter Anne lives in London with her new lover, Pierre? Either way, he’s still wearing his pyjamas and he can’t find his watch. He is starting to wonder if he’s losing his mind.
A deeply unsettling and profoundly moving mystery, that has captivated audiences in Paris, London and New York. The Father has garnered critical acclaim and a long list of awards including Best Play (2014) in the Molière Awards, France’s highest theatrical honour.
Its English translation, by renowned writer Christopher Hampton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses), was The Guardian’s pick for Play of the Year in London (2015), and the production was last year nominated for two Tony Awards in New York, including Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play (2016).
“I must admit when I started reading the script I was baffled by it,” says John Bell. “Was it a weird kind of thriller or an exercise in absurdity, I wasn’t sure? But once I understood the ingenious device by which the playwright allows us into the mind of André, I was blown away by it. It is by turn challenging, funny, poignant, surprising and full of tenderness.”
John Bell is one of the nation’s most illustrious theatre personalities and has been a key figure in shaping the nation’s theatrical identity for the past 50 years. His unique contribution to national culture has been recognised by the National Trust of Australia who have named him as one of Australia’s Living Treasures. Bell was last seen on the STC stage in Uncle Vanya in 2010.
Director Damien Ryan, who has met acclaim leading independent theatre company Sport for Jove, brings his skills to STC for the first time in this co-production with Melbourne Theatre Company. The story is shaped by a strong cast: Anita Hegh plays the devoted daughter Anne, following her role in the STC’s critically acclaimed production of Cloud Nine. Marco Chiappi plays Pierre, following his performance earlier this year in STC’s Away, and Faustina Agolley makes her STC debut in her first major stage role as Laura.
Florian Zeller has been long labelled a name to watch since publishing his first novel in his early 20s. Zeller wrote The Father in 2012, and is arguably his most successful stage work yet. Since its opening, the playwright has attracted media attention around the globe with The New York Times (US) labelling him “the next playwright to know?”.
Director: Damian Ryan Featuring: Faustina Agolley, John Bell, Marco Chiappi, Glenn Hazeldine, Anita Hegh, Natasha Herbert Designer: Alicia Clements Lighting Designer: Rachel Burke Composer & Sound Designer: Steve Francis
Wharf 1 Theatre – Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay (Sydney)
Season: 24 August – 21 October 2017 (previews: 19 – 23 August)
Information and Bookings: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Image: John Bell – photo by James Green