Previewed 24 August 2019, Opened 2 September 2019, Closed 2 November 2019 at the Duke of York's Theatre
A major production of Florian Zeller's play The Son in London for a strictly limited season
After his parent's divorce, Nicolas starts to going through a difficult phase. He's listless, skipping school, lying and thinks that moving in with his father and his new family may help give him a 'fresh start'. But when he doesn't settle there, he decides that going back to his mother's may be the answer. When change feels like the only way to survive, what will he do when the options begin to run out?
Translated by Christopher Hampton, this production transfers to London's West End following an acclaimed season at the Kiln Theatre in North-West London earlier this year.
The cast at the Duke of York's Theatre features Laurie Kynaston as the son 'Nicolas', John Light as the father 'Pierre', and Amanda Abbington as the mother 'Anne', with Amaka Okafor as 'Sofia'. Directed by Michael Longhurst with designs by Lizzie Clachan, lighting by Lee Curran, and music and sound by Isobel Waller-Bridge.
Florian Zeller's London plays include The Height of the Storm directed by Jonathan Kent and starring Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2018; The Truth directed by Lindsay Posner and starring Alexander Hanson and Frances O'Connor at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2016; The Father directed by James Macdonald and starring Kenneth Cranham in the title role at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2015 and at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2016; and The Mother directed by Laurence Boswell and starring Gina McKee in the title role at the Tricycle Theatre (now Kiln Theatre) in 2016. All of Florian Zeller's London plays have been translated by Christopher Hampton.
When this production opened here at the Duke of York's Theatre in London West End in September 2019, Nick Curtis in the London Evening Standard highlighted that "Christopher Hampton's lucid translation is directed with devastating force by Michael Longhurst, but retains a slight, bothersome, bourgeois Parisian brittleness. And it has at its centre a beautifully sensitive portrayal by Laurie Kynaston of a boy in pain for reasons no one - not even he - understands." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph praised it as being "the most emphatic and empathetic play about the terror - and potential tragedy - of depression I've seen... [with] Laurie Kynaston as Nicolas, often wearing his face like a Greek mask of impassivity, communicating much through brimming eyes, and a wayward, twitchy physicality. It's a transfixing, name-making performance... If you're looking for a reminder of why theatre matters, this is it." Clive Davis in the Times said that "it's a testament to Laurie Kynaston's magnetic performance as the boy in question that the play's superficialities are relatively slow to emerge... Florian Zeller's writing never digs very deep, although Michael Longhurst's sleek production works hard to convince you that there are hidden depths... As a long-threatened crisis erupts, classical music pours forth. It's a ploy you could just about get away with in a film; on stage it seems embarrassingly melodramatic." Tom Birchenough in the i newspaper wrote that "Laurie Kynaston gives a piercing performance as Nicolas... a dark journey; a marvellous performance."
Laurie Kynaston's West End theatre credits include the role of 'Oisin Carney' in Sam Mendes' production of Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman at the Gielgud Theatre in 2018.
John Light's West End stage credits include the role of 'Robert Dudley' in Robert Icke's revival of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2018; 'Dr Conrad' in Jonathan Church's production of Mark Hayhurst's Taken at Midnight at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in 2015; and 'Caliban' in Rupert Goold's revival of Shakespeare's The Tempest, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Novello Theatre in 2007.
When this production opened at the Kiln Theatre in North-West London in February 2019, Ann Treneman in the Times commented that "Florian Zeller has been called the most exciting playwright of our times, and this take-your-breath-away effort will reinforce that view... Michael Longhurst directs, creating a rhythm that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It's as if you are watching a thriller, even though the plot twists are everyday problems. The acting is superb... Every parent, and every son (and daughter), will watch this with their heart in their mouth." Neil Norman in the Daily Express wrote that "Michael Longhurst directs Christopher Hampton's translation with precision. The balance between adult frustration and love for a challenging boy is astutely observed... There are some glaring anomalies in the plot but the cast is superb, with Laurie Kynaston making the most of Nicolas's troubled soul. Devastating and utterly compelling." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times said that "it's a moving, unflinching exploration of a mental health disorder... The Son depicts teenage depression... and it is beautifully acted here... It's a plea for better listening, and agony to watch." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard described it as being "a bleak, characteristically clear-sighted look at the pain and turbulence of mental disorders... there are precise, sensitive performances from Amanda Abbington and John Light... best of all is the woundingly raw Laurie Kynaston, who captures the lethargy of Nicolas and his capacity for sudden bursts of terrifying rage, as well as affording glimpses of the sunnier person he once was." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted how "the surgical precision of the writing achieves a devastating visceral impact... in Michael Longhurst's immaculately presented production."
This production was previously seen at the Kiln Theatre (previewed from 20 February 2019, opened on 26 February 2019, and closed on 6 April 2019) with a cast that featured Laurie Kynaston as the son 'Nicolas', John Light as the father 'Pierre', and Amanda Abbington as the mother 'Anne', with Amaka Okafor as 'Sofia', Oseloka Obi as 'Nurse', and Martin Turner as 'Doctor'.
"Parisian writer Florian Zeller follows The Mother and The Father with this play completing a family trilogy. You don't need to have seen the first two to appreciate this. But beware: its shocking climax will leave any parent of a troubled teenager in a cold sweat... Michael Longhurst's production is well tuned in to the play's chilling theme - the inadequacy of parental love for an adolescent on the lonely road to self-destruction. It's gripping, for sure. But I didn't fully buy it. The family's problems are too textbook, its emotional turmoil held at a remove. Zeller is a clever writer, all right, but this play never fully leaves the page." The Mail on Sunday
"A highly conventional, and only fitfully convincing, domestic drama by the French playwright du jour Florian Zeller. Laurie Kynaston and John Light deliver strong performances as a tortured teen and his pent-up parent, the former torn apart by his folks' separation, the latter trying to solve everything with manly optimism. One thing he can't fix is the underwritten supporting roles... It's often stirring, but provides little we haven't seen before, even down to the gun, which you know will be triggered by the end." The Sunday Times
"The Son is a structurally simpler play than Zeller's earlier work... but while less mentally disorienting than its predecessors, it is more emotionally challenging and its impact on anyone who has experienced depression or known it at close quarters is overwhelming. Christopher Hampton provides an impeccable English translation and Michael Longhurst a sensitive and lucid production. John Light is magnificent as Pierre... Amanda Abbington and Amaka Okafor are splendid as his past and present wives. But the abiding image of the production is Laurie Kynaston's uncomprehending anguish and inarticulate rage as Nicolas. Kynaston is superlative and the play itself is one of the finest of the past decade. It deserves to be widely seen." The Sunday Express
The Son in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 24 August 2019, opened on 2 September 2019, and closed on 2 November 2019