WAF Young Reviewer - An interesting play about parenthood from a real-life father and son

11th July 2021

By Pen Hughes

Vocal Point brings theatre into unconventional spaces: on this occasion, the Fred Wells Gardens in Battersea, although there are two more performances coming in different outside locations.

Together with Simon and Abraham Parker, real-life father and son, Vocal Point has created Furrow, ‘an outdoor play about forgiveness, reconciliation, and the mistakes made by fathers and sons’.

For a stage, the audience sat in a semicircle around an area of grass which was empty except for a small log. I liked this decision as it gave the space a feeling of timelessness, and allowed it to play host to the memories the pair recounted.

The piece began unannounced with the entrance of Abraham alone as Michael, before Simon entered as his father Kevin and the reunion began. All was progressing quickly, if slightly uneasily, until Kevin descended into gobbledegook rambling after five minutes and Michael walked away, leaving his father alone and talking to himself. Michael then re-entered and the reunion began again, like everything so far hadn’t happened. It became clear that until now we’d been watching Michael’s hopes for how the meeting would go, and now we were party to Kevin’s ideal exchange. I really liked this as a structural device, but when we finally saw the real meeting I felt a bit like I was in no-man’s-land, with no framework to place where we were in the narrative for the remaining fifty minutes.

It became clearer afterwards that these imagined sequences featured too-perfect un-naturalistic dialogue, akin to the fast-paced back-and-forth you see in films or sitcoms. This was a really effective decision to put the audience slightly on edge at the beginning, before we find out why. They then heightened this effect in the ‘real’ scenes by leaning into the realism of the conversation, interrupting each other and using uncomfortable pauses.

For a play running continuously for an hour, they made the right choice of building Michael and Kevin’s world, both now and thirty years ago, rather than using an event-based plot. While this meant they slightly ran out of phrases to use instead of “Do you remember…?”, the way they paced the gradual reveal of details about their past, such as Kevin’s alcoholism, was pitched perfectly. Towards the end, however, it felt like they’d been in a hurry to end it when writing the script: a physical fight between the pair ended with Michael knocking his dad out in a rage, and then when it dawned on him he may have killed his father he started sobbing, until Kevin revealed he’d only been faking it, and they hugged. I found it difficult to believe that all the pain we’d seen up to this point could be forgiven just like that. The piece ended quickly afterwards with Michael exiting, and Kevin taking a swig from his hip flask to celebrate, which again ran completely contrary to the changes we saw him make - this felt like a rushed ending that didn’t live up to the rest of the play.

On the whole, however, the Parkers successfully overcame some of the noisiest forms of transport to produce a really touching and interesting piece of theatre.