Following a successful run at Kiln Theatre, Michael Longhurst’s production of Florian Zeller’s The Son, in a translation by Christopher Hampton, has transferred to the West End.
There is no late talk that would heal Nicolas (Laurie Kynaston), as the parents barely see the root of his illness. When Pierre (John Light) separated from Anne (Amanda Abbington), he left a wound deeper than the misery of a single mother having to deal with a teenage boy. The so-special always-cheerful son has become depressed and no move from one parent’s house to another seems to help the situation. He doesn’t talk anymore. He doesn’t smile anymore. He doesn’t go to school anymore. The elephant in the room is barely addressed, attributing the origin of the boy’s odd symptoms rather to some mischiefs at school or a little heartbreak. Sofia (Amaka Okafor), the father’s new partner, is stressed for her baby, while the reassurance that ‘everything is going to be fine’ turns void as the mental state of Nicolas, feeling increasingly under pressure, deteriorates.
Mental health is a difficult topic. It is difficult to talk about it, and certainly, it is difficult to take it on a stage. Depression brings growing darkness with itself, and most of the times it is not easy to understand where it comes from or what the triggers are. This is not the case of the play, where it is said many times that Nicolas has started to have his difficulties when his parents separated.
The story flows well and the scenes blend into each other. While the first half of the play is slower and the structure of the dialogues shows some repetitiveness, the second half has more pathos, thanks also to the absence of the interval that keeps the tension high.
The four actors give a powerful, emotional and at the same time natural and believable performance. The versatile set is designed by Lizzie Clachan.
The son is a good production, cleverly staged, and beautifully acted that addresses important issues in a sensitive and realistic way.
It runs until 2 November. Tickets from £ 18 here
Photo: Marc Brenner