Fathers and Sons – reviews of Donmar's 'outstanding' revival

Friel's soulful adaptation of Turgenev's tale of tension between the generations is deeply satisfying

Brian Friel's adaptation of Fathers and Sons
(Image credit: Johan Persson)

What you need to know

Brian Friel's stage adaptation Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons has been revived at the Donmar Warehouse, London. Irish playwright Friel is best known for Dancing at Lughnasa and Philadelphia, Here I Come as well as stage adaptations of Checkov.

In Fathers and Sons, a young university graduate, Arkady, returns to his father's country estate with his friend Bazarov, a brilliant and charismatic radical espousing nihilism. Their much-anticipated visit becomes strained when Bazarov attacks the values of his hosts, and reveals the tensions between the generations.

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Lyndsay Turner directs a cast starring Seth Numrich, Joshua James and Anthony Calf. Runs until 26 July.

What the critics like

Here Turgenev's novel is "beautifully staged using Brian Friel's tragicomic adaptation", says Kate Bassett in The Times. This story of how life's expected developments don't necessarily happen, how someone's meteoric rise may disappear in a puff of smoke and of how revolutions get sidelined, shifts from savagely funny to deeply moving.

"It is hard to imagine this outstanding production of Fathers and Sons ever being better staged than it is here," says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. This wonderfully absorbing work brings a large cast of characters to vivid and often comic life, and Friel's play bursts with talk, rows, love and despair.

This story of youth against experience is a "deeply satisfying mix of soulfulness and elegance", says Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard. James beautifully conveys a blend of youthful idealism and fragile self-awareness and Numrich is exciting as a gifted orator who defies his own principles.

What they don't like

"The transition from page to stage produces lumps and bumps in Friel's adaptation," says Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times. There is some stilted narrative pacing and several undernourished characters (particularly the women), yet the production projects a quiet, subtle humanity.

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