Theatre review - Fatherland

Gate Theatre and ATC present


By Tom Holloway

Gate Theatre

Running until 12 March 2011

A father and daughter settle down for an evening in together. Angela helps her father, Mark, set up a giant path of dominoes. She is playful, joshing with him, calling him a “loser nerd”. He gently admonishes her for playing music too loud. As they plan a night of pizza and DVDs, their relationship appears perfectly ordinary.

But the love Mark feels for his daughter is not as innocent as it first seems. It is an obsessive, all-consuming passion that threatens to destroy them both. The fragile edifice of dominoes they build represents the precariousness of their own relationship -- you know that by the end both will have collapsed. The cracks begin to show when he denies her the opportunity to visit friends.

In Tom Holloway’s carefully constructed play, what is left unspoken is often as important as his characters’ dialogue. Angela’s mother is entirely absent and there is no mention of a maternal figure. FATHERLAND is broken down into scenes that are meant to represent the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - although in the play’s 70-minute duration these connections are not as clear as they perhaps could have been.

Choosing a stylised approach, Caroline Steinbeis directs the actors with precision and is rewarded by two superb performances. Jonathan McGuinness perfectly captures a domineering, manipulative father and Angela Terence is equally convincing as his vulnerable, damaged daughter.

Designer Max Jones has created a claustrophobic room in disarray. Two red hearts (a balloon and Christmas bauble) serve as emblems of love’s fragility. Johanna Town’s subtle lighting gradually reveals the bars of a prison while Simon Slater’s imaginative soundscape helps ratchet up the tension.

Originally published in Theatreworld