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BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre

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Now on stage at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre

BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre

The Cantonese production of Le Père opened at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre on Thursday 20th May. The play was originally scheduled for July & August 2020, but due to the pandemic, it sadly had to cancel right after the set had been completed. Fortunately, this time it is back with a total of 10 shows, and Hong Kong audiences are in for a treat.

Those who have seen the recent Academy award winning movie adaptation "The Father" (featuring Anthony Hopkins & Olivia Colman), will be familiar with story. Written by French playwright Florian Zeller, the play won Best Play in the 2014 Molière Awards in France, as well as several awards and nominations in London and New York; here in this Hong Kong Repertory Theatre production, the play is directed by multi-award winning FUNG Wai Hang. Audiences see a woman named Anne who is losing her patience as she struggles to find a suitable living arrangements for her father, Andre, before she needs to move from Paris to London. Not being able to bring him with her, she needs to find a way to ensure his safety while she is abroad. BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre Carers come and go as they cannot cope with Andre's outburst and eccentric personality, leaving Anne with no choice but to bring Andre into her home until they find a solution. Audiences watch on as Andre loses grip of reality, and his life becomes more confusing and unfamiliar. Zeller tells the story from Andre's perspectives with characters and locations changing throughout, to create multiple imagined states. Some audience members may not be used to this storytelling method and will find it confusing, but it is precisely this confusion that allows people to understand what it is like to live with a condition like dementia.

Credit must be given here to Sonia AU who has done a superb job with the Cantonese script. Despite the play being a highly transferable one - relatable to people from different countries and ethnicities - it's still not easy making sure the jokes still hit in the right places, and that the language works well with the local culture. Au's script flowed incredibly well, and the use of colloquial and everyday Cantonese language and sayings, it really helped to engage audiences. If it weren't for the French character names and the frequent mention of Paris, I'm sure audiences who knew little of the play would have believed it to be a story set in Hong Kong. Most translated scripts often ends up incomplete or partially realised due to the differences in language, but here, Au expertly navigates the descriptive nature of the Chinese language, and successfully delivers Zeller's text.

Playing the role of Andre is Frederic MAO, HKRep Director Laureate who has won many accolades during his career, including Actor of the Year in the IATC (HK). BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre Mao takes the play to a whole new level with his faultless performance. He does an excellent job in delivering the humour as the eccentric yet charming, 'tap-dancing ex-circus performing' elderly. But what impresses audiences the most is how convincing Mao is when it comes to playing this character that suffers from dementia. The way he effortlessly flicks between different behaviours and personalities as his character goes through episodes of confusion due to memory loss is nothing short of masterful, and watching the character go from this quirky, out-spoken yet slightly brash man, to the helpless, child-like being in the final scene, you could not help but feel an immense amount of sadness and pity for him. Mao's delivery really tugs at the heartstrings and it was a stellar performance.

Alongside Mao, is PANG Hang Ying who plays Andre's daughter, Anne. Here, she does a good job depicting the feelings of stress and exhaustion from having to look after her father, but her approach plays it somewhat safe. BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre The emotions are delivered on a relatively superficial level, also, coming from a lot of physical motions and pacing around the stage. Pang has a slight tendency to over-gesture with her hands, which unfortunately undermines the performance a little whereby it felt like Pang was delivering lines but lines that aren't truly ingrained. One scene which did not feel as rehearsed was actually the midnight monologue at the dinner table. As Pang stared out towards the audience delivering her lines, she had to rely most on her voice to communicate that agony and frustration the character held. It was here, with limited hand gestures, did it felt like Pang truly connected with the words, and that wasn't an actor performing a role, but instead, the lived experience of a real person.

Supporting these two are KO Hon Man who plays Pierre, Chris SUN who plays The man, Kiki CHEUNG as Laura, and special guest appearance from Alice LAU in the role of The woman. BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre The cast bring together a wealth of theatre experience that really shines through in the production, each giving a solid performance. The most notable two though are Ko and Lau. Ko's portrayal is very persuasive and authentic. The most memorable scene for me was the one where Pierre corners Andre and scorns him for being a nuisance to his relationship with Anne, Ko did not need to excessively raise his voice whereby it becomes shouting, or engage in highly animated actions, the way he controls the tone of his voice and the gaze he holds when facing Andre perfectly creates this sense of authority and intimidation. It's these important but small decisions and attention to detail that create all the difference.

BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre

For Lau, though her time on stage was short, she delivered an extremely convincing yet true to life portrayal of the various characters. What really stood out for me was the final scene where she appears as the carer from the nursing home - when Andre has his meltdown, Lau's approach is one of calmness and control. Many would have adopted a kind, caring and extremely supportive persona, to the point where the carer may be coddling the elderly, but Lau's portrayal reflects that of an experienced carer who is accustomed to seeing these reactions and outbursts on a frequent basis - the response is an honest one, explaining and correcting any inaccurate recollections from Andre, and the way in which her character soothes and comforts him is somewhat refreshing. It is the effort and the thought that goes into each detail, each action or response, that makes this production such a brilliant and enjoyable one to watch.

Last but not least, set, lighting and costume all do splendid job in bringing this story to life, but the highlight for me is WONG Yat Kwan's set design. BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre What audiences see is a simple apartment, semi-opened plan where we see the living room and dining area, with a kitchen tucked away in another room; but what appears to be this neat and compact humble abode cleverly expands throughout the play, bit by bit where the audience may not necessarily realise it until the very end. The way in which it is designed allows for the easy removal and repositioning of furniture, but most importantly, it is extremely versatile, easily switching from apartment to a nursing home room. The expanding set serves as an incredible reflection of the feeling that one may experience should they suffer from dementia - how everything becomes more distant and unfamiliar, the spaciousness accurately mirroring the mind of a person living with dementia.

This is hands down one of the best local Hong Kong theatre productions I have seen, and I do not say this lightly at all. BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre Most people who know me will know that I have a tough relationship with local theatre productions, often finding the acting to be too melodramatic without enough attention to detail to be convincing and authentic. The quality of this production is typically something I would expect to see in the West End in London. It is truly a top class production and it is a privilege to see this incredible book be brought to life through its magnificent cast and under Fung's skilful direction.


Le Père runs at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre between 20 - 30 May 2021. For ticketing info, visit: https://www.hkrep.com/en/event/21-1/


BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre

BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre

BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre

BWW Review: LE PERE at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre


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