Review: The Son (Duke of York Theatre, London)

Following on from the success of The Father and The Mother, Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton go full force macrocosm in The Son, initially a hit at the Kiln Theatre and now a West End transfer.

Nicholas (Laurie Kynaston) is ill. We know he is because he regularly says he is. It’s not a sick kind of ill, it’s an over whelming sensation of ‘I don’t want to be around anymore’. On one hand, his father Pierre (John Light) is juggling his new family with finding ways of fixing Nicholas’ feelings of despair. On the other is his mother Anne (Amanda Abbington) who has a heart full of love for her son but is lost in her own maze of grief for the broken home and heightened awareness of her son’s emotional precariousness.

What Zeller and Hampton capture so beautifully are the fractured souls of an old and a new family and the dynamics that spin between all parties. Amaka Okafor’s Sofia avoids all the pitfalls of caricature in her role as step mother and the new wife. Okafor’s Sofia is a delicate balance of love for her husband and baby, desire to maintain as close to status quo as possible with Nicholas with a need to draw a line under the past and carve a new future. John Light’s Pierre is a classic rabbit in the headlights, quick-fix father. Putting his foot down when required, ready with a new pep talk at the drop of a hat but ultimately an emotional mess bubbling just beneath the surface. Amanda Abbington’s Anne is both beautiful and heartbreaking. So much has happened and so much has already been experienced, she is simply trying to stay alive long enough offer her son as much love as she can possibly give in order to save him. At the centre of this is Laurie Kynaston’s remarkable Nicholas. A young man so much in pain, he is heard but rarely listened to.

Michael Longhurst directs with such a light touch that this devastating domestic drama could easily veer into melodrama but with this exceptional creative team, they remain authentic and open-hearted at all times.

The Son is akin to a beautifully composed piece of music. A perfect balance of light and shade with an inevitable surge to a heart thumping climax. It is also a testament to a world class creative team and smart leadership from Kilburn’s The Kiln theatre that such an honest and accomplished piece of theatre can make the transfer to the West End.

At 90 mins straight through, this is a treat that will live on long after you have left the theatre.

The Son runs at London’s Duke of York Theatre until 2nd Nov 2019.

All images by Marc Brenner.

Full details can be found here.

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