The Son: A Play by Florian Zeller
written by Ram Shergill
“Art is not a mirror with which to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” – Berthold Brecht
There are not many plays you can come away from that make you think about the subject matter for days and nights continuously. The Son by Florian Zeller is one of the plays that not only make you feel empathy for the protagonist, but also about what can be done about such deep mental health issues that the play is depicting, and leaves you thinking about how one can do something to help people in similar situations.
Director Michael Longhurst allows us to be immersed into the scene immediately, for as soon as you enter the theatre and take your seat, the protagonist, Laurie Kynaston, is already engaged in the act of scribbling erratically over the set, hinting that he might have some deep thoughts he is dealing with. Laurie plays the troubled teenage son of two divorced parents, who are living separate lives, but yet are still in contact due to their son.
The constant immersion and the simple set make you feel that you are not only viewing a play but are actually part of the play, a feeling that you are immersed in this life-world created by the phenomenal Florian Zeller. Objects are mostly carried on stage an remain for the entire duration of the play, perhaps a symbol of the thickening of the plot. All this allows for believing that the family portrayed could quite easily be yours, or The Son could be your son, your relative, perhaps your nephew or a close friend or a loved one.
The Son, for me, symbolised the core values of Brechtian theatre, in which the unexpected was present leaving the audience feeling an intense and essential vision of reality, designed to wake up the audience and forcing us to critically think in terms of what can be done about mental illness issues, and how they are ever present in our every day-to-day life. It helps making the appeal of The Son an intellectual exploration of relationship and personal struggles.
The importance of The Son lies in understanding how relationships can lead us to neglect other loved ones who are ever present, for example people and children who are products of broken relationships. Their breakdowns are forgotten and can be a burden affecting daily life. The psychological breakdown of The Son is not just because of a family breakdown but also due a societal lack of care and shows how the simple communication between people can lead to humans feeling alienated and isolated through being left out, which is poignantly depicted in The Son and is ever present in our everyday lives. To simply ask someone ‘how are you?’ and actually want to know how they are actually feeling is all too quickly forgotten in this digitally infused, digitally ‘immortal’ age that we are living in.
Florian Zeller describes his earlier plays as, ‘labyrinths’. In describing his methodology for The Son he states, “…but here I want the audience to be forced to believe in what they see so that they can be destroyed by the end.”
Florian had do delve deeply into the psyche of the characters when he was writing, creating a dramatic tableau of characters in the making of the poignant piece of art that The Son is.
Florian Zellers The Father has now been made into a film and is starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman. Not only did Zeller write the script, he has also directed the film.
The Son is an excellent play with a superb cast and direction, it is one of the plays that allows you to feel that you ‘know’ the characters closely, as if you were actually close to them personally and they became a part of your life. This closeness to the character’s reminded me of when I first saw Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party. The Protagonist Magazine eagerly waits what more is in store from this remarkable writer and director. The characters in Florence Zeller’s The Son have ingrained their mark in my thoughts.
The Son is showing at Duke of York's Theatre, London, until 2 November 2019.