In at time of Brexit shenanigans, this story of wilful self destruction seems an apt metaphor for our national crisis. And like all good tragedies, The Son’s destination seems inevitable no matter how many times the parental figures around our troubled hero endlessly say “it’s going to be fine.” Even before the play starts, the manner in which this putative son has scrawled messages on his bedroom wall doesn’t suggest he’s leaving a note to himself to pick up milk on the way home from school.
Nicholas, played with great heart-breaking misery by Laurie Kynaston, is the son and living with his mother Anne (Amanda Abbington). His father Pierre (John Light) is starting a new life with Sofia (Amaka Okafor). All this is thrown up in the air as Nicholas arrives, lashing out at life’s injustices and various household items. The Son is strongest in showing how broken families with children are always going to remain connected.
Not that The Son is about blame, responsibility or even mental illness, though the characters debate all this. Its strength lies in its clinical, linear examination of the havoc wrought by one teenage boy’s refusal to bend to life’s inevitable disappointments and compromises. There are moments of hope and a lovely shot of warmth with some nice ‘dad dancing’ by John Light that brings Nicholas back to life.
The only letdown is that The Son adds up to less than the sum of its parts, with a literalness that extends to putting straight-forwardly sad music over the sadness on stage. There is power, though, in Zeller’s handling of the material and the final half is heartbreaking as the unquiet in Nicholas’s heart turns into something more than teenage angst.
The Son, Duke of York’s Theatre, 45 St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4BG. Tickets from £17.75, until 2 November 2019.
Last Updated 04 September 2019