The Son completes a loosely related trilogy in which each standalone play focuses on a member of the family. The first, The Father, examines the effects of dementia, and The Mother discusses middle-aged angst and loneliness. This final play’s focus is, teen depression. Nicolas, two years ago a normal, smiling boy, is going through a turbulent phase after his parents’ separation and father’s new family. He’s irritable, skipping months of school, lying. He moves between his mother’s and father’s house trying to find a place where he feels comfortable and wanted, but there are only so many options. At some point, it seems Nicolas is going to have to take more drastic actions.
A hundred minutes with no interval seems like It could potentially drag on in places, but I can assure you that my attention did not waver throughout the entire play. Even at times where there was no talking, there was always something happening on the stage. Nicolas scribbling across the wall, throwing stuff across the room. All this helped us to comprehend what his thoughts, and serve as a visual representation of what was going on inside his head. This was particularly enhanced due to the otherwise clean, modern Parisian set design by Lizzie Clachan.
The most notable performance comes from Laurie Kynaston, who plays Nicolas. He impressively encapsulates the essence of a lost teenager; disillusioned, erratic, nihilistic. He draws you in, and while we never really understand him, we feel for him. John Light also does a brilliant job as the father, and his strange mix of caring and uncaring, guilty and nonchalant. Scenes between the two of these compelling characters were by far the most gripping.
Amanda Abbington and Amaka Okafor, as the mother and Pierre’s new wife respectively, are also strong characters, though outshone by Kynaston. This may simply be due to the way characters themselves are written and the way they are incorporated into the play rather than the acting talent (the mother in particular seems to be under-written by Zeller, drifting in and out randomly and not really fitting in seamlessly). But both nonetheless do a great job in terms of acting, and of supporting the work as a whole.
Ultimately, there is no clear-cut explanation for the way Nicolas is acting, and he remains a bit of an enigma throughout the entire play, from start to end. There is no analysis and exploration of the ‘why’, it is simply a presentation of depression and its frightening repercussions, not only on Nicolas himself, but on the entire family. The lack of resolution and understanding perhaps makes the whole situation even more alarming and heartrending. I commend the actors for being able to perform an incredibly emotionally draining piece, night after night, and I highly recommend going to see this if you want to be as awed by the talent as I was.
- 4 stars