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Cara Novotny, Theatre Studies student at The University of Bolton, discusses The Father

The Father at Oldham Coliseum Theatre. Photography by Joel C Fildes

“I feel as if I am losing all my leaves”.

My first experience of theatre was at Oldham Coliseum Theatre in 1999. I was four years old. I don’t quite remember which pantomime it was, but I’m sure some of the regulars could help me out with that one. From that year forward, it became a family tradition to visit the Coliseum, a theatre that was accessible and affordable to a young family, and watch their pantomimes. I was captivated. I vividly remember Eric Potts shouting out ‘Happy Birthday’ to me, as I had a Christmas Eve birthday, it was much anticipated.

The Father at Oldham Coliseum Theatre. Photography by Joel C Fildes

Fast forward 18 years. Little did I know walking into the theatre on Friday night to watch The Father, that I would be watching Kenneth Alan Taylor. He was the Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Coliseum during the time I was attending the pantomimes.

 

The theatre appeared much smaller than I remember, however, I was four foot tall with teddy clutched securely under my arms when I last attended. It would probably still feel the same size for teddy. While the venue felt smaller than I last remembered, it felt intimate and homely, which is unusual for a proscenium arch theatre, but highly appropriate for the performance of The Father.

While I owe a thank you to Taylor for making my initial ventures to the theatre accessible and enjoyable, I also owe him a second thank you for his outstanding performance in The Father.

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The Father portrays the devastating impact of dementia on one man and the people in his life.  The Father is both intensely moving and very funny”.

 

Taylor and the cast gave a performance that allowed the audience to watch with the protagonist’s eyes, to hear with his ears and share his confusions. We questioned as he questioned. I understood the necessity of each individual character, and their contribution to the narrative. Kevin Shaw (Director of The Father and Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Coliseum) has worked excellently with his cast in ensuring an honest, sensitive and accurate portrayal has been executed.

The Father felt like a story shared rather than a story told. An opportunity not just to observe and listen passively, but an opportunity to experience, and allow yourself to respond, with the action of the play.

I was, regrettably, probably the youngest audience member in attendance that evening. Recognising this, it dawned on me that The Father is potentially just as, if not more, relevant to young adults, millennials and thirty somethings, as it is to the older, regular demographic. It’s a play of our future.

_JCF1973The play is a reminder that we need caring for and nurturing throughout the entirety of our life, not just in our childhood. After a time where we have given our everything to our family, there will most likely be a time where we require support from those we gave to. That’s not to say we are burdened with such a task, but the responsibility should be in our interest to be attentive and caring to those around us, and especially those who have done so much for us. One day we may require the same support.

My parents set an admirable example in providing my Nana with the support, care and love that she required during her final years diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They did the best they could do, and I’m sure she would have been grateful and proud. I’d hope I could provide the same support should they require it too. They’ve given me access to a vast amount of theatre growing up, it’s the least I could do.

While there were tears and sniffles, they were from an audience who showed their care and appreciation. The response was nothing to be ashamed of, but a release of emotion that should be shared and should encourage conversation. It’s not enough to just watch theatre any more. We have to talk about it.

It was an honour to experience The Father with the rest of the audience and the actors on Friday.

If you want to watch something relevant, honest and beautifully written, make sure you watch The Father. Then have a drink in the bar and share your thoughts with your friends and the company.

Cara Novotny

Runs until Saturday 1 July. Also touring to Harrogate Theatre 4 – 8 July