Theatre Review: Florian Zeller’s The Son At Kiln Theatre

The Son, Kiln Theatre ★★★★☆

By Neil Dowden Last edited 60 months ago

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Theatre Review: Florian Zeller’s The Son At Kiln Theatre The Son, Kiln Theatre 4
Photo: Marc Brenner

Florian Zeller’s The Son, translated from French by Christopher Hampton, is the final play in his ‘family trilogy’. Another intensely concentrated drama about fractured family relationships and mental illness, it is more straightforwardly direct than The Father and The Mother with their shifting, ambivalent perspectives.

As its title implies, this time the focus is on the inner torment of a teenage son, Nicolas, who cannot come to terms with his father Pierre leaving his mother Anne and himself to start a new family. Playing truant from school and not seeing any friends, the self-harming Nicolas is depressed, angry and disruptive, as he goes from one parent to the other — a danger to himself and possibly to others.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Michael Longhurst’s taut, finely-tuned production delivers a real emotional punch, especially when Nicolas’s parents have to decide whether to take him out of a psychiatric hospital against the doctor’s advice. Lizzie Clachan’s clean-cut set is messed up by Nicolas’s indecipherable scrawlings on a wall and a large black bag suspended threateningly from the ceiling which later spews Nicolas’s gear all over the stage.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Laurie Kynaston is terrifically edgy and unpredictable as Nicolas, vulnerable but aggressive, full of needy manipulativeness. John Light gives a superb performance as the guilt-ridden Pierre who wants the best for Nicolas but loses his temper with his son’s lying. Amanda Abbington’s concerned Anne struggles to cope with Nicolas’s challenging behaviour, while Amaka Okafor as Pierre’s new wife Sofia tries to help but has her own baby son’s welfare to look after.

Photo: Marc Brenner

The Son is a moving drama that asks searching questions about children’s demands and parental responsibility: ultimately, did Nicolas make his own ‘choice’ or could Pierre ‘have done more’?

The Son, Kiln Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR. Tickets £12.50–£32.50, until 6 April 2019.

Last Updated 27 February 2019