The Father

Written by August Strindberg

Thursday 29th April to Saturday 1st May and Tuesday 4th May to Saturday 8th May 1993

Directed by John O'Hanlon

The Captain, used to discipline and command, faces his deepest uncertainly in his own home. Can he really be sure that the daughter he loves us his own child? As events overtake him, the soldiers' code brings little comfort, and Strinberg's classic drama builds to a terrifying climax.

AuthorAugust Strindberg

Johan August Strindberg (1849 - 1912)

A prolific writer who often drew directly on his personal experience, Strindberg's career spanned four decades, during which time wrote over 60 plays and more than 30 works of fiction, autobiography, history, cultural analysis, and politics. A bold experimenter and iconoclast throughout, he explored a wide range of dramatic methods and purposes, from naturalistic tragedy and history plays, to his anticipations of expressionist and surrealist dramatic techniques. From his earliest work, Strindberg developed forms of dramatic action, language, and visual composition so innovative that many were to become technically possible to stage only with the advent of film. He is considered the "father" of modern Swedish literature and his book 'The Red Room' has frequently been described as the first modern Swedish novel.

The premiere of his first major play, 'Master Olof', in 1881 gave him his theatrical breakthrough. In his plays 'The Father', 'Miss Julie', and 'Creditors', he created naturalistic dramas. In particular, the characterisation in the well-known 'Miss Julie' replaces plot as the predominant dramatic element (in contrast to melodrama and the well-made play) and the determining role of heredity and the environment on the characters is emphasised. During the 1890s he spent significant time abroad engaged in scientific experiments and studies of the occult however, a series of psychotic attacks between 1894 and 1896 led to his hospitalisation and return to Sweden where he was able to recover. In 1898 he returned to playwriting with 'To Damascus', a dream-play of spiritual pilgrimage.

PlayThe Father

The Father was written in 1887 and first produced in Berlin in 1890 and portrays the tragedy of a man and a woman struggling for the possession of their child. The story surrounds the conflict of interest between The Captain and his wife, Laura. The Captain (an ex-military hero and a well respected scientist) is arguing with with his wife about how their daughter, Bertha, should be raised. The Captain wants her to be raised as an atheist in the city, whereas Laura wants her daughter to be an artist. Unfortunately, Swedish law at the time prevents Laura's wishes about her daughter's future to be followed, so in order to get her wish, Laura falsely accuses the Captain of mental instability.

To try to induce the appearance of insanity in her husband, she introduces the idea that Bertha may not even be his daughter - implying that she had been unfaithful. She also intercepts his mail, and lies to the influential Doctor, in efforts to convince him of the Captain's insanity. The Captain starts to believe that Bertha is not his child, and the play plunges towards its tragic conclusion.

The Bench Production

The Father poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


The CaptainPeter Corrigan
LauraSally Hartley
BerthaCatherine Bates
PastorStuart Hartley
DoctorPeter Woodward
NurseRita de Bunsen
NojdAlan Jenkins


Director John O'Hanlon
Stage Manager Sharon Taylor
Lighting Design Jacquie Penrose
Lighting Operation Andrew Caple
Sound Kathy O'Hanlon
Costume Rita de Bunsen
Margaret Houlton
Set Design David Penrose
John O'Hanlon
Poster Design Peter Woodward
Front of House Sally Hartley

Director's Notes

Strindberg wrote 'The Father' in two and a half weeks in 1887, a year before 'Miss Julie'. Both plays caused storms of protest from publishers, theatres and public. Strindberg has been variously described as the first realist in modern drama, and the founder of expressionist theatre. He was both at different stages of his turbulent life. Strindberg explored a wide variety of artistic expression, and in his native country (Sweden) he is known for his poetry, novels and paintings. Later in life he concentrated on chemical experiments and became obsessively determined to win recognition as a scientist; but his experiments with alchemy pushed him to a severe mental crisis, verging on insanity. 'The Father' is perhaps Strindberg's most bitter and autobiographical play. It details his own marriage breakdown and imagined jealousies about his wife. They divorced in 1892.

John O'Hanlon

Production Photographs