Fatherland at the Lyric Hammersmith
Originally devised from many interviews with men about their fathers – conducted by one of the play’s producers, Frantic Assembly, as part of the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) – Fatherland, directed by Scott Graham (co-writer with Karl Hyde and Simon Stephens), is a glorious and passionate verbatim theatre study of British masculinity. Combining drama, music and movement, this impressive show exposes the heart of manhood past and present in light of father and son relationships with all their complexity, affection, pride, rage, disappointments and nostalgia.
Focusing on the male experience seems not only a counterpoint but also a necessary partner to current feminist concerns. Discussion of the changing social fabric of a nation is also key, as this piece looks at growing up in 1970s Britain, and how fathers have remained entrenched in old ways while their offspring have moved forward – in some ways surrendering parts of themselves in the process.
That the accounts are real has a particular emotional impact in this play about a play. With its Brechtian “breaking the fourth wall”, the idea of the self-conscious narrative echoes works such as Truffaut’s Day for Night, a movie about making a movie.
Much of the emotion of the work is presented with superb, vibrant music and animated choreography. A revolving platform comprising a terrific set by Michael Begley and Jon Clark’s evocative lighting design strikingly impact intensity of mood.
Incorporating an eclectic collection of men from all ages and walks of life, the ensemble brilliantly recreates moving expressions of memories and experiences of real fathers and sons from the writers’ hometowns. What is particularly striking is that although the dialogue is verbatim, it is by no means a random concoction of feedback, but a remarkably well arranged, precise, skilfully timed piece of writing and performance combined with stellar directing.
Alternating gravity with humour, sadness with hilarity, poignant heartfelt charm with painful revelation, Fatherland is very honest and also highly entertaining – a moving, thrilling and thought-provoking show.
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Fatherland is at the Lyric Hammersmith from 25th May until 23rd June 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.