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Father’s Son


VAULT Festival 2020

Fathers Son

Father’s Son

Crescent – The Vaults

Reviewed – 26th February 2020



“Touching and heartbreaking to watch”


VAULT Festival is over half way through now, and there’s been quite the running theme of social issue-based performances, from topics of the environment, race, disability. Now, it’s time for working-class heritage to have its voice. However, Father’s Son proves to be more than just that. It displays the delicate nature of the dynamic between man and his boy, and is done so with upmost sensitivity and truthfulness.

Three fathers, three sons, over three generations, where the toxicity of each relationship trickles down and is inherited by the next. Thrown back to the years of 1974, 2001, and 2018, each is a snapshot of when the Father/Son bond is hanging by a thread. Their specific complications may alter but the intensity of their struggles never wanes.

James Morton offers a precise social commentary on masculinity within working class families of the North, particularly highlighting the lack of support, or stigma around getting help for mental health, and that things are only just changing. Although nothing new or radical is being said about working-class or family life, Morton injects it with compassionate, yet brutal truth. He also has an earthy, natural sense of humour, the kind that seems to be ingrained within a lot of Northerners, and here, Morton is able to slot it in when needed to counterbalance the tough conversations at the heart of the scenes.

Mark Newsome, although quite obviously younger than the character he is playing, pulls off being all the different father figure roles with ease, taking on the typical dad mannerisms. Newsome seems most comfortable in the final ‘2018’ father role of Tom, a caring, self-deprecating, and desperate soul. It comes across the most genuine but that’s likely to be the character closest to the actor’s own nature. Kenny Fullwood is excellently subtle in his physical and vocal differentiation between the three sons, however they are all linked by their emotional scars as they are all affected somehow by the behaviour or life decisions of their father. Or fathers’ father. Both actors are able to switch from intimate, soft moments to guttural, sometimes animalistic, cries of torment with ease and dexterity.

The basic set of two blocks used as seats, moved to slightly different positions as time jumps forwards, makes things unfussy and minimalist, allowing the story and the performances to take centre stage and blossom. The two cups of hot drinks is a key prop that is the running link between all of the scenes. The abrupt shift from builder’s tea being the drink of choice to fancy coffees in 2018, is an astute observation of the decline of our national obsession with tea, but nevertheless, hot beverages and deep conversations will forever go hand in hand.

Father’s Son could quite easily have fallen into the ranty realm of being a tale of white male rage yet Morton, and director Carla Kingham, adamantly make this a story of humanity, that most can relate to, whether it’s through the topics of class, of sexuality, or family relations. Having Kingham on board I think is a real draw. As much as she’s very perceptive about male behaviour, it’s her ability to make Father’s Son universal that is truly the winning component. Touching and heartbreaking to watch, it proves that even a brew can’t always solve your problems.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Ali Wright


VAULT Festival 2020



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Isaac Came Home From the Mountain – 4 Stars


Isaac Came Home From the Mountain


Reviewed – 14th May 2018


“a powerful perception of virulent masculinity in a desolate society”


The parable underlying Phil Ormrod’s story of ‘Isaac Came Home From The Mountain’ spotlights the balance of love, acceptance, pride and rejection in male relationships, often clouded by expectations and rarely voiced. Bobby, out of school, needs to find work to appease and impress his father. When he succeeds and his father fails to show the recognition he hopes for, he looks for approval elsewhere and, in his desperation, makes a terrible mistake.

The four actors, perfectly cast, produce a powerful perception of virulent masculinity in a desolate society. Ormrod’s tightly-written script, with its touches of humour, give depth and intrigue to the characters; the rapports ebb and flow as they search for their places in each other’s lives. Charles Furness’ Bobby shields his sensitivity with vulnerable toughness. Keen to do the right thing, but crushed by a grim future, he is angry and dismissive. Only once does he let go in a piercing moment of realisation. His father, John (Guy Porritt), tries to get him to face his responsibilities and earn a living. Torn between his own duties at work and home, he finally yields, as Abraham saved Isaac from sacrifice, and stands by his son. Ian Burfield as Mike, prepared to take Bobby on, has a bullying turn of temper, frightening and imposing in size and sonority. In a game of intimidation and authority, he plays with the insecurities of Bobby and his own son, Chris, portrayed by Kenny Fullwood. He, in turn, defends his territory when Bobby comes looking for work and smoulders with jealousy when his father favours the newcomer.

The harsh sense of raw emotions is impacted by the wonderfully arresting set design by Eleanor Bull, from its forceful main structure to the carefully detailed dust and blades of grass. Ali Hunter’s stunning lighting illuminates the changes of time, place and atmosphere as well as creating dramatic special effects. The sound (Benjamin Grant) interacts with the lighting, marking the different scenes with subtle grittiness.

This is a simple narrative given weight by skilled writing. Carla Kingham shapes the play with varied moods and pace, using every possibility of the set to generate space, action and movement. On the small stage the tension builds and we feel a shadow of discomfort, reflecting the anguish experienced, in particular, by young men in a ruthless world. The evocative creativity of the art design and acutely passionate performances combine for a moving, bitter-sweet evening of theatre.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Helen Murray



Isaac Came Home From the Mountain

Theatre503 until 2nd June



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