COME TO DADDY

POW­ER­FUL AND PRO­FOUND STAGE SHOW ABOUT FA­THER-AND-SON RE­LA­TION­SHIPS FROM UN­DER­WORLD’S KARL HYDE AND OTH­ERS.

Q (UK) - - Q Review Live - JOHN HAR­RIS

FATHER­LAND ROYAL EX­CHANGE THE­ATRE, MANCH­ESTER THURS­DAY, 6 JULY, 2017

Had great nights on drugs and en­joyed them to­tally/But I re­mem­ber at this point think­ing, ‘There isn’t any feel­ing in the world to beat, you know… when you break’/You just start sob­bing, don’t you?… You’ve got your girl in your hands/There wasn’t a feel­ing like it/And I went home and it didn’t wear off, you know, the feel­ing/ Un­like with drugs, you didn’t have a come­down.” The song is called No Feel­ing Like It, and its lines are not quite your reg­u­lar kind of lyrics. But in the in­ti­mate con­fines of Manch­ester’s Royal Ex­change The­atre, sung by an ac­tor whose words are in­tended to con­vey the won­der of fa­ther­ing a new­born child, they are amaz­ingly mov­ing – some­thing ham­mered home by the cho­rus, plucked ver­ba­tim from a half-co­her­ent con­ver­sa­tion, and bel­lowed out by a small crowd of sup­port­ing play­ers who look like the male half of Bri­tain in mi­cro­cosm. “Have been fantastic!” they shout.

“Have been fantastic! Fantastic! Fantastic!” Wel­come to Father­land: a 95- minute cre­ation pro­duced by Fran­tic Assem­bly (the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for the stage ver­sion of the hit novel The Cu­ri­ous In­ci­dent Of The Dog In The Night Time, first pre­miered in 2012, and still go­ing strong), un­veiled at this year’s Manch­ester In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val, and co-cre­ated by Un­der­world’s Karl Hyde. The lat­ter has long spe­cialised in songs draw­ing on real-life ex­changes, which made him the per­fect choice for this lat­est work: a deep ex­plo­ration of the re­la­tion­ships be­tween fa­thers and sons, which uses the high­lights of con­ver­sa­tions with men from each of the three au­thors’ home­towns. Hyde is from Kid­der­min­ster, on the edge of the sprawl around Birm­ing­ham. His co-au­thors Scott Gra­ham and Si­mon Stephens hail re­spec­tively from Corby, in Northamp­ton­shire, and Stock­port, Greater Manch­ester. In some ways, the script and songs are as much about places as peo­ple, which speaks to the dad-cen­tric sub­ject mat­ter. As Gra­ham puts it: “That town is your fa­ther, and you’ve mythol­o­gised that fa­ther, good or bad. All of that ex­ists in the sto­ries you tell of it, whether you choose to tell a story of it be­ing a mon­ster or a nur­turer.” Put sim­ply, this is an amaz­ing piece of work. No end of themes are ex­plored, both eter­nal, and top­i­cal: love, be­reave­ment, the lost iden­ti­ties that went with heavy in­dus­try, the very male re­sent­ments that sat un­der sup­port for Brexit – and through­out pretty much ev­ery­thing, that eter­nal male ten­dency to avoid di­rect con­ver­sa­tion about feel­ings and seek some kind of emo­tional refuge in the telling of sto­ries. The whole thing reaches its de­noue­ment around two-thirds of the way through, when the fo­cus sud­denly falls on the three au­thors, and their own ex­pe­ri­ences. Hyde’s dad Gra­ham (or rather, Neil McCaul, the ac­tor who bril­liantly plays him) is a huge pres­ence, talk­ing not only about his ex­pe­ri­ence of fa­ther­hood – “Karl was not a pretty child,” he ad­mits – but also his own dark, un­speak­ably trou­bled up­bring­ing. Scott Gra­ham’s char­ac­ter thinks aloud about the but­toned-up mas­culin­ity ev­i­dent in the small de­tails of his dad’s be­hav­iour at home (“He felt he had the right to be that per­son who sits on the sofa while things hap­pen around him”). The ac­tor play­ing Stephens, mean­while, af­fect­ingly talks about the fa­ther he lost to al­co­holism. Through­out, there’s a sense of men not used to drop­ping their guard do­ing ex­actly that. “The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple we spoke to have prob­a­bly never sat down and spo­ken in that way,” says Hyde, who has just re­leased an al­bum ver­sion of the songs from the show, recorded and co-writ­ten with the ex­per­i­men­tal mu­si­cian Matthew Her­bert. “We’re talk­ing to peo­ple who’ve had to keep up a front, who come from so­ci­eties where to let your front down is a sign of weak­ness. Yet all of them opened up to us.” Among the most mov­ing ex­am­ples is Not A Word, de­liv­ered by a char­ac­ter called Daniel – and cen­tred on love, and how rarely men talk about it. “No we don’t say the word ‘love’ any…/No we don’t say the word… to any… to each other,” he sings, with a hes­i­tance that speaks vol­umes. “But we kind of try and do the best we can for each other/ Uh… it’s a word/We don’t re­ally use…” It might be down to this writer’s gen­der, but the tan­gle of emo­tions evoked by a piece like that al­most de­fies ex­pla­na­tion. As with so much of Father­land, it’s re­ally about the inar­tic­u­la­ble fun­da­men­tals of life, and how you can divine deep things in ap­par­ently or­di­nary speech. Judg­ing by their loudly ap­pre­cia­tive re­sponse, tonight’s crowd un­der­stands that as a mat­ter of in­stinct, which bodes well for next year – when Father­land will open in London, and au­di­ences will once again ex­pe­ri­ence a trail­blaz­ing cre­ation that’s pow­er­ful, pro­found – and unim­peach­ably fantastic.

“WE’RE TALK­ING TO PEO­PLE FROM SO­CI­ETIES WHERE TO LET YOUR FRONT DOWN IS A SIGN OF WEAK­NESS. YET ALL OF THEM OPENED UP TO US.” KARL HYDE

Par­ent’s evening: (above) the cast of Father­land let loose; (be­low) the show’s c0-cre­ator Karl Hyde.

“A trail­blaz­ing cre­ation”: Manch­ester gets a big, fat dose of cathar­sis.

Emo­tional res­cue: mu­si­cal the­atre hits new heights.

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