HONG KONG – French playwright Florian Zeller has certainly been experiencing some kind of vogue in recent years, with local companies Pangdemonium! and the Singapore Repertory Theatre both having staged productions of his work in 2018 and 2019. Now, the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre is set to restage their sold-out, Hong Kong Drama Award-winning version of Le Père (The Father) from 2017.
The Father follows André, an Alzheimer’s disease-ridden father (Fredric Mao) as he attempts to find his watch one day. Yet, nothing is as it seems within the house – the furniture shifts, his daughter’s husband annoys him to no end, and his own daughter’s (Pang Hang Ying) face seems to change from scene to scene. Reality itself is shifting before his very eyes, and as time goes on, so does the mind. Can André regain control of his life before it’s too late?
Aging is an issue that everyone must face. If one is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease late in life, what happens to the body and mind? Director Fung Wai Hang was keen to delve into this question and raise societal awareness of this ailment, saying: “I was initially attracted to Le Père because I wanted to pry into André’s world: a man unable to recognise family members standing right in front of him, with his impressions and memories a jumble and hallucinations coming out of nowhere. When one can no longer control one’s mind, what shock and suffering ensue?” Fung hopes that this re-run will again address this issue, helping the public better understand how this disease affects patients and caregivers.
The 2017 version of Le Père was completely sold out for 16 shows, and received awards for Best Director, Best Lighting Design, Outstanding Production of the Year and Best Actor (Tragedy/Drama) for Fredric Mao at the 27th Hong Kong Drama Awards. Says actor Fredric Mao, who reprises his role from the 2017 production: “I like Le Père a lot. The playwright has written a very clever script that requires the cast to develop rapport and nuanced interpretations. It didn’t occur to me that my role was actually hard: the script looks as if it lacks logic, its materials shifting around, challenging not only the creative team but also the audience to experience what André is going through. This is a play that has social significance. It’s real and charming, making the audience understand and feel both the patient’s condition and the conflicts and suffering of those taking care of him.”
The Father is especially poignant for Hong Kong, with one out of ten septuagenarians diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while one-third of the population above age 85 is afflicted by this ailment. As this phenomenon become more and more prevalent, how do we learn to accept and understand the disease? Says HKRep Artistic Director Anthony Chan: “Zeller portrays André’s memory loss and hallucinations with such a deft hand, at the same time capturing his daughter’s own hardships in dealing with her mid-life crisis and the stress of being her father’s caregiver. The many contradictions and tensions in the multiple relationships uncover the playwright’s incisive viewpoints on family matters without being melodramatic or emotionally overwrought.”
Other cast members in this Cantonese production (translated by Sonia Au) include Alice Lau and HKRep company members Ko Hon Man, Chris Sun and Mercy Wong. Hoping to give caregivers and the public an up-close experience of Alzheimer’s disease from a patient’s perspective, come watch Le Père and have your heart rendered to shreds watching this unusual, powerful drama about memory, family, and ageing.
Le Père plays at the Macao Cultural Centre from 26th to 28th April 2019, and at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre from 4th to 18th May 2019. For tickets, visit their website here