There’s something about the team-up of Simon Stephens, Scott Graham and Karl Hyde that makes Fatherland an exciting prospect even before entering the Royal Exchange Theatre for this slice of the Manchester International Festival.
The trio co-created this piece which based on their interviews with fathers and sons from the writer’s home towns of Stockport, Corby and Kidderminster respectively.
Fatherland is an ambitious contemporary project that explores different factors and circumstances of what it is like to not only to have a father, but to be one too. These different stories are all mashed together into a structured piece to get the audience to discover different emotions about themselves and also their childhood memories with their own fathers.
The piece offers a perplexing script that is a lot to take in at first, but as more people are introduced it begins to makes sense. It starts off with Luke, speaking from the perspective of an audience member, who asks three main interviewers what the motivation is behind Fatherland. He asks them questions such as how much profit they will make and if they lied in the script – almost reading the audiences mind as the production attempts to explain itself from the outset.
From there on, different men walk across the stage – all telling stories about their fathers. Prompted by the interviewers’ questions, the men answer as their dialogue intelligently intertwines. This ambition surely does pay off despite being tough to follow at first.
The songs are an unusual addition to the production, but they prove to be a highlight. Strong cast vocals make this an even more unnerving performance in parts. Props are used effectively throughout, for example the very intelligent use of a ladder that included some very eerie and thought provoking movement. Effective lighting is used with a strong level of expertise.
One notable part of the show was the use of the ensemble later on in the play, when the interviewers are asked about their earliest memories with their own fathers.
Different emotions are constantly covered throughout Fatherland. The show tackles issues such as alcoholism, the state of modern politics, being orphaned… the list goes on. These discussions ignited memories I have of my own dad, which made this performance all the more powerful when you eventually get used to the style. The choreography is steady and shuddering, being an unusual mix with the industrial music playing in the background.
This piece is truly enjoyable. It is thought provoking and inspiring in equal measure. Catch it whilst you can at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. FATHERLAND plays until 22nd July. To book tickets, click here.