Rob Drummond and Nicholas Bone have invested a great deal personally into this production. The pair have written it, are in it and pour themselves into it. The evening’s proceedings are a combination of scenes taking us into the far distant past, the more recent past and the present. They re-enact moments from Edmund Gosse’s Victorian memoir Father and Son, alongside descriptions and discussions of the often parallel situations and themes surrounding the pair’s experiences with their own clergy fathers. Recordings of Drummond in conversation with his father add an effectively real element to the play and help bring these “characters” to life for us.
Rob and Nicholas are atheists (as was Gosse) and so struggle to understand how to reconcile the need for honesty about their own beliefs with the familial love and respect they feel for their parents and in particular, fathers. As the piece progresses, they explore their own childhoods, in a way that feels a bit like a live therapy session, although fully inclusive of, and involving, the audience. Drummond is more petulant, Bone is more resigned and the two provide a good contrast, especially with the interwoven humour that comes from their warm, witty and amusingly chiding relationship. Both are likeable and engaging and help us get under the skin of their upbringing and subsequent sense of inner conflict as they openly reflect.
There’s a gentility and elegance to the piece – the staging is simple yet effective and changes to the set and scenes have a sense of fluidity and flow, often mirroring the passage of time. There are moments during some of the Gosse and Drummond/Bone childhood scenes that are perhaps a little surplus or drawn out and given the ticket price (remembering that this is only a 75 minute play) in a city where there’s a plethora of theatrical and cinematic choice, expectations are relatively high. Our Fathers is an interesting piece of theatre though, well thought out and presented, posing some pertinent questions about relationships. The ending in particular is moving, touching and sends us away with a satisfying sense of resolution.