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The Father

June Watson (nurse) and Alex Ferns (captain) in The Father at Trafalgar Studios 2. Photo: Tristram Kenton June Watson (nurse) and Alex Ferns (captain) in The Father at Trafalgar Studios 2. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Strindberg’s The Father could easily be seen as a melodramatic and misogynistic rant by an increasingly irate lunatic. But Laurie Slade’s incisive and intuitive update reveals it as a complex study of psychological warfare.

In Slade’s dynamic script, both the Captain and his wife Laura are trapped within the confines of their rigid, patriarchal society. In Abbey Wright’s taut production, they prowl around one another like animals in a cage, taking swipes until one finally catches the jugular of the other.

It’s an electric clash of the titans, made even more compelling with a sucker punch central performance from EastEnders baddie Alex Ferns. Ferns is all nervous energy at first, like a prizefighter minutes before the first-round bell. But as he ascends into madness he becomes a man possessed, flying between explosive brawn and angelic stillness. Emily Dobbs as his sleek, sensual wife is an apex predator, cold and terrifying but also human and soft.

Slade highlights that everyone is culpable in this tragedy, with the betrayal from the Captain’s nurse – a moving performance from June Watson – feeling particularly acute. No one wanted it to end this way, but everyone ends up with blood on their hands.

Dates: March 11-April 11, PN March 17

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Strindberg’s battle of the sexes is given an equal platform in this muscular and intuitive adaptation
Honour Bayes is a freelance arts journalist who has written extensively for The Stage and had work published in the Guardian, Independent, Time Out, Exeunt Magazine and The Church Times. She is currently Associate Editor on Chinese arts magazine ArtZip and has worked as web editor for the Royal College of Art, managing its arts and design coverage.