‘The Father’ forgets theatrical consistency

Kath Hotschilt and Alan Cooke star in Townsville Little Theatre's production of 'The Father' PHOTO: Gary Harvey

Townsville Little Theatre will round out their 2019 Season with a touching one act play starring Alan Cooke and Kath Hotschilt (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), that explores the impacts of dementia as it takes hold.

We caught up with Director Donna Clayton-Smith to learn more about The Father.

How would you describe The Father?

The Father is a savagely honest piece of writing that examines the experience of a man gradually developing dementia and the impact on those around him. It has been translated from French to English, Italian and Spanish and performed all over the world.

How does The Father challenge people to look at dementia in a new way?

A person can lead a full and productive life and then dementia will take everything from them, including (unlike other conditions) the ability to explain to people what they are experiencing. Because this play places the audience in Andre’s experience we learn from it, and hopefully can develop empathy for people who are affected by dementia.

We have all had to let go of our previous rehearsal experience … Looking for logic in Andre’s mind is not productive.

Donna Clayton-Smith

How did you come across this play and why did it appeal to you?

I heard a description of the play during the 2016 award season when it was nominated for a Best Play Tony and an Olivier award. The lead actors in London and New York both received Best Actor awards in both those ceremonies. I put it in my notebook and forgot about it. Later I came across the radio play in a drama podcast I subscribe to. And then this year when I was walking through the streets of Lima in Peru there was a poster that said Il Padre and Andre’s tragic face just looking out at me. I came home, grabbed my notebook and set to work planning a local production.

How are you and the cast drawing from your own experiences for this production?

We have all had to let go of our previous rehearsal experience where you build an imaginary world and work together to eliminate inconsistency before the audience arrives. Looking for logic in Andre’s mind is not productive. We have had to throw caution to the wind, trust the confusion within the script and let it tell the story. My cast is very talented and dedicated and it is a delight to work with them.

What do you hope audiences will take away?

I hope the audience will grow their empathy and understanding for anyone with mental illness (unlike some of the characters at certain points during the play) and that this will be something useful at some time in their life. Kindness is never wasted.

Anything you’d like to add?

I am so grateful to the Townsville Little Theatre committee for trusting me to create this piece and allowing us to partner with Dementia Australia. We will be promoting their services and collecting donations for them at each performance.

Townsville Little Theatre will present The Father on 4 – 7 December 2019.

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