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The Theatreguide.London Review

Fatherland
Lyric Hammersmith Theatre  Summer 2018

For Fatherland Scott Graham ('Co-Author and Director'), Karl Hyde ('Co-Author and Composer') and Simon Stephens ('Co-Author and Writer') interviewed a number of men on their relations with their fathers and their own experiences being fathers. 

In Fatherland characters named Scott, Karl and Simon interview a number of men on their relations with their fathers and their own experiences being fathers. 

We are not talking sparkling originality or inventive dramaturgy here, folks. 

To give the separate interviews some semblance of structure they are broken up and interwoven, one man telling part of his story, then another, then another, and then back to the first for more, and so on. Some of the interviews are narrated, a few dramatised and some sung. 

At its best, Fatherland achieves some moments of cumulative power, as something said or sung by one interviewee resonates against something said earlier by another. 

At its far-from-best even the central theme seems forgotten, as a sequence about, say, an alcoholic father becomes about alcoholism and not father, or the testimony of a firefighter is staged as a tableau of heroic firefighters with nothing to say about fathers or sons. 

The musical sequences are recited or shouted over a melody-less drone that too often muddies the words and reduces them to incomprehensible sounds. 

That occasional moments work – the physical description of a father paradoxically made real by the distortions of a child's perspective, or a young father's joy at seeing his infant making him fly like Peter Pan – seems almost accidental in the face of all the moments that don't work. 

Near the end of the 90-minute play one of the interviewees rebels and accuses the fictionalised creators of pirating other men's lives in order to work out their own Daddy issues. Of course he's right, and the fact that we've sensed that from the beginning has kept us at arms-length from the play. 

We can't escape the sense that Fatherland was created by Graham, Hyde and Stephens for Graham, Hyde and Stephens, and that we've been barely-tolerated eavesdroppers.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Fatherland - Lyric Hammersmith Theatre 2018

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