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Review: The Height of the Storm, at Wyndams Theatre

Reality, memories and family frictions are carefully crafted as beautifully balanced play deals with dementia

12 October, 2018 — By Howard Loxton

Jonathan Pryce as André. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

LIKE his Olivier-winning The Father, Florian Zeller’s latest play deals with dementia and memory, but in a way that is different though just as perceptive and equally touching.

André is a successful writer. He’s in his kitchen looking out of the window for his wife Madeleine and largely ignoring what his daughter is saying when flowers arrive but without any message. Shortly after Madeleine and another daughter turn up – but things don’t hang together.

The confusion is deliberate. Things become clear when André is alone talking to Madeleine and she is suddenly in shadow. There is something that André doesn’t know or won’t accept.

“You lean back on your life like a solid rock,” he says, “but what is left? A few names and a few faces lost in the fog.”

The action mixes reality, memories (some of them guilty ones) and wishful delusions carefully crafted (and beautifully translated by Christopher Hampton) in a story of love long-lasting, infidelities, broken relationships, family frictions and the difficult decisions that have to be made when someone needs a carer.

Amanda Drew plays dutiful daughter Anne, wondering whether revelations in her father’s diaries can be published. She’s annoyed that sister Elise (Anna Madeley) has not been more supportive, while Elise, who puts her estate-agent lover (James Hillier) first, thinks Anne was always dad’s favourite. There is also a woman from the past (Lucy Cohu).

Jonathan Kent’s production is beautifully balanced, Anthony Ward’s setting discreetly echoes the mind’s confusion and Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins as André and Madeleine both give poignant performances that make this a must-see.

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