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Arts of Hong Kong 2021: Le Père (2021) by Hong Kong Repertory Theatre

Aging and decline are necessary stages in life. As the elderly population increases, Alzheimer’s disease has become a growing health issue in our society. How does such a seemingly incurable ailment affect the patient and his family? The HKRep will soon present a re-run of Le Père, a dramatic work whose vivid storytelling draws the audience into the protagonist’s mind. What the theatregoer experiences while witnessing the patient’s changing circumstances and the pressures on his caregivers can hopefully create more empathy among the wider public. 

Written by celebrated French playwright Florian Zeller, Le Père chronicles how a father experiences the corollaries of his ailment as the audience takes such a journey with him. Winner of the 2014 Molière Award for Best Play, Le Père was also nominated for the Olivier and Tony Awards. The English film adaptation, The Father, directed by the Zeller, received more than 150 nominations and awards across the globe, including winning Best Actor at BAFTA, six Oscar nominations and four Golden Globe nominations.

Le Père follows the story of an elderly father, André (played by Fredric Mao) gradually loses his ability to live independently. His daughter, Anne (played by Pang Hang Ying) moves him in to live with her and her boyfriend, tending to his daily necessities. André suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, vacillates between humorous disposition and state of confusion. “Reality” gradually dissolves in his mind, challenging their father-daughter relationship. Shouldering filial love and her responsibility to family, Anne is under tremendous pressure to make the “appropriate” decision. Can her father regain control of his own spirit and decide his own fate at the last moments of his life?

Zeller’s nuanced script in which emotions and contradictions are deftly handled has won enthusiastic praise from HKRep Artistic Director Anthony Chan. The plot underlines the conflict of filial love and responsibility while shining a light on the loneliness and helplessness of old age and disease. The second re-run of Le Père, however, had to be called off because of the pandemic. This year, to bolster the company’s 2021-22 season’s theme of “Theatre Returns to Life,” they made the decision to revive Le Père, a work that is so closely intertwined with both theatre and life.

Director Fung Wai Hang comments on revisiting the play: “As we greet the second re-run of Le Père, I strongly believe in the work’s importance in taking the audience into the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and letting us explore the world they live in. According to research, the number of adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease has seen a gradual increase in Hong Kong.”

Thus Le Père reminds us all to face the issue squarely and with empathy. Previous runs of this play have created great resonance in our community, bringing comfort to patients and their caregivers. I sincerely dedicate Le Père to friends suffering from Alzheimer’s disease as well as their caregivers and medical personnel, sending them my well wishes and support!”

Special guest actor Fredric Mao eagerly anticipates the second re-run of this play. “Le Père is a drama about a father—suffering from Alzheimer’s disease—and his family. The playwright shows us a world through the eyes of patriarch that is richly dramatic. Not only did our audience applaud the production when I played the role of André in 2017 and 2019, but they also deepened their understanding of the disease.”

Le Père is a reminder for all of us that at the most difficult moment, we must face hardship with courage, taking care of people around us. Loving care and support are the best antidotes.”

Le Père runs from 20th to 30th May 2021 at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre. Tickets and more information available here

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