Tag Archives: Christopher Hampton

The Son

The Son


Duke of Work’s Theatre

The Son

The Son

Duke of York’s Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd September 2019



“an ordinary play in so many ways, and yet it is simultaneously extraordinary”


Everything about The Son is arresting. It is difficult to watch and even harder not to.

This is the final play in Florian Zeller’s loosely connected familial trilogy, which began with 2012’s The Father. Here we join Anne (Amanda Abbington) and Pierre (John Light), a divorced couple who must reconnect for the sake of their only son. Nicolas (Laurie Kynaston) has been a completely different person since the divorce, and now Anne can no longer cope with his self-isolation, anger, or (as of late) truancy. Moving in with Pierre and his new girlfriend Sofia (Amaka Okafor) seems like the solution – but what was the problem to begin with? As Nicolas’ thoughts begin to unravel, so does his family’s belief in the son they thought they knew.

The Son is an ordinary play in so many ways, and yet it is simultaneously extraordinary. This is apparent even before the play begins. The sight of Lizzie Clachan’s set – a chic suburban living room flooded with symbolic pieces of debris – is enough to indicate the carefully constructed tumult that is to follow.

It is only afterwards that these objects (children’s toys, a mounted deer head) really strike the observer as important. This is because, for all the busyness on stage, it is the actors that draw all the focus. Laurie Kynaston is utterly believable as Nicolas. He stays clear of melodramatic clichés and instead pools the depths of Zeller’s writing to draw out an emotionally authentic character. John Light is fascinating to watch as Pierre, a flawed yet deeply caring father whose frustration manifests itself in uncomfortable ways. Despite the unsavoury aspects of his character, Light humanises Pierre, making his position understandable if not agreeable. Amaka Okafor transforms Sofia into a complex character, a woman who is both loving and resentful of her volatile stepson. Okafor surprises in every scene, and is able to navigate the twists and turns of her character with flair. There is strong support from Amanda Abbington, who is sadly not present enough throughout the story. When she is present, however, she radiates love and warmth, an ideal balance to Light’s ferocity.

Whilst Zeller is evasive about the details of Nicolas’ illness, he pulls no punches with how it is presented. He wrings every last drop of emotion from the scenarios he presents, investing every one with a subtly disarming twist. Zeller’s approach – to turn his characters inside out and hold them up for all to see – makes The Son all the more difficult to watch. There is a universal sense of pain here: this family is not particularly special, not marked by excessive trauma, but in many ways just ordinary, in a way that makes its dissolution even crueller. It is clear that Nicolas is surrounded by love, just not the right kind. And we as an audience know that it will never be the right kind – but we still fall in love with those moments of laughter and lightness that suggest it might be so. The vague accumulation of dread sits uneasily within these moments of joy in what is a true emotional test for even most disconnected audience member.

Beautifully and assuredly executed, The Son may mark a completion of a trilogy, but is surely the sign of many more great works to come.


Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography by Marc Brenner


ATG Tickets

The Son

Duke of York’s Theatre until 2nd November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Rosmersholm | ★★★★ | May 2019


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The Mentor

Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Nica Burns are delighted to announce that Laurence Boswell’s critically acclaimed production of Daniel Kehlmann’s The Mentor will have a West End run at London’s Vaudeville Theatre from 24 June to 2 September.

The Mentor stars Academy Award-winner F. Murray Abraham as Benjamin Rubin, Daniel Weyman as Martin Wegner, Naomi Frederick as Gina Wegner and Jonathan Cullen as Erwin Rudicek.

The Mentor is directed by Olivier Award-winning Laurence Boswell who resides as Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio where the play celebrated a record-breaking run earlier this year, the most successful in the studio’s history. This production, translated by Academy Award-winning Christopher Hampton, marks the first time that bestselling author Daniel Kehlmann’s play has been performed outside of Germany.


In a dilapidated art nouveau villa, somewhere in the German countryside, two massive egos are set on a collision course in this perceptive and compelling comedy about art and artists and the legacy of fame.


F. Murray Abraham won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Salieri in Miloš Forman’s masterpiece Amadeus. His numerous other screen credits include Homeland, Mighty Aphrodite, Scarface, Finding Forrester, Star Trek: Insurrection, The Name of the Rose, The Good Wife, Inside Llewyn Davis and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Theatre credits include It’s Only A Play, Othello, Richard III and Uncle Vanya, for which he was awarded an Obie Award for Best Actor

Daniel Weyman’s previous credits for Theatre Royal Bath include Kafka’s Dick and King Lear. Additional theatre credits include Sideways (St James Theatre), 4000 Days (Park Theatre) and The Crucible (Bristol Old Vic). Television and film credits include Great Expectations, Foyle’s War and Silent Witness

Naomi Frederick’s theatre credits include Hobson’s Choice (Theatre Royal Bath and West End), The Heresy of Love, Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It (Shakespeare’s Globe) and The Winslow Boy (Old Vic).

Jonathan Cullen starred in the Ustinov Studio’s production of Trouble in Mind. Additional theatre credits include Enemy of the People (Chichester Festival Theatre), Doctor Faustus (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Love the Sinner (National Theatre).

Daniel Kehlmann is a German-language author whose novel Measuring the World, sold three million copies in Germany alone and has been translated into more than 40 languages.
Christopher Hampton previously translated Florian Zeller’s play The Father for the Ustinov Studio, launching its international success. He won an Academy Award for the adaptation of his own play, Dangerous Liaisons
Laurence Boswell is an Olivier Award-winner, Artistic Director of the Ustinov Studio and an Associate Artist of the RSC. His recent productions include A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Theatre Royal’s Main House, and Trouble in the Mind, The Mother, Intimate Apparel and The Spanish Golden Age Season in the Ustinov Studio.

Photography by Simon Annand


24th June – 2 September


404 Strand, London WC2R 0NH



Tickets from £19.50