The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

03/08/2019 - 24/08/2019

Production Details


After wowing audiences around the world, award-winning drama The Father is opening at The Court Theatre, giving Cantabrians a powerful insight into the reality of dementia.  

Directed by Simon Bennett, whose career spans over 30 years across both stage and screen, The Father is a profoundly moving and darkly comic masterpiece starring Mark Hadlow (The Hobbit); Luanne Gordon (Elling); Tom Trevella; Ailis Oliver-Kerby; Owen Black and Kim Garrett.

Written by ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, Florian Zeller, and translated by multi-award-winning writer Christopher Hampton, The Father has won numerous awards, including France’s most prestigious theatrical honour, the 2014 Molière Award for Best Play.

With a ground-breaking script full of twists and turns, this riveting drama combines a hot-button topic with top-shelf theatricality. The story unfolds from the point of view of our protagonist, Andre, as he struggles to piece together his reality in this dark drama that, at times, plays like a thrilling mystery.

“The writing is extraordinary. The cast are superb. The content is topical. It’s impossible to experience this play and not be moved,” says Bennett.

The director has an intimate connection to the script as his own father died from dementia two years ago.

“When I first read the script, I recognised its truth and wanted to work on it. I have first-hand experience of the indignity the disease brings, and the challenges faced by the family of the sufferer.”

Those challenges are a central focus of the play as Luanne Gordon’s character, Anne, struggles to cope with her father’s care when it begins to impact more and more heavily on her own life.

“It’s about loss,” she says. “Both sides are losing in this instance. One side is losing their loved one while the other side is losing themselves – and is aware of it. It’s very sad. And very hard. That being said, there are some very touching and funny moments within this play, as in life. It’s incredible the human ability to laugh and find joy in the bleakest of times.”

Almost 70,000 Kiwis are living with dementia today, with Alzheimers New Zealand anticipating that the number will rise to over 170,000 by 2050.

“Dementia is touching more and more families,” says Bennett. “The challenges faced by Anne as she tries to do the right thing for her father, and by Andre, who fiercely fights to keep his independence, will be recognised by many people.”

Hadlow has been preparing for several months so that he can accurately portray his character struggling with the debilitating symptoms of dementia. “What appealed to me about The Father is, here is a man who has been very successful at who he was, suddenly cast into the world of not knowing what is going on, who he is or who other people are – and that’s very scary. The play envelops a question and a subject matter that is a very hot topic at the moment: dementia.”   

For Bennett, The Father provides not only a story that resonates with our community, but also offers up an extraordinary experience at the theatre.

“Audiences can expect a play rich with ideas and theatrical surprises. The story combines black comedy, farce and tragedy to conjure an experience that is surprising, funny and moving.”

The Father
The Court Theatre, Christchurch  
3 – 24 August 2019
Show Times:
Monday & Thursday:  6:30pm
Tue/Wed/Fri/Sat:  7:30pm
Forum:  6:30pm Monday 5 August
Matinee:  2:00pm Saturday 17 August
Ticket Prices:
Adult:  $56 – $64
Senior (65+):  $49 – $57
Child (under 18):  $27 – $30
Group (6+):  $49 – $57
Supporter:  $47 – $54
30 Below:  $30
phone 03 963 0870 or visit

André:  Mark Hadlow 
Anne:  Luanne Gordon
Pierre:  Tom Trevella
Laura:  Ailis Oliver-Kerby 
Man:  Owen Black 
Woman:  Kim Garrett 

Director:  Simon Bennett
Set Designer:  Nigel Kerr
Costume Designer:  Deborah Moor
Lighting Designer:  Giles Tanner
Sound Designer & Composer:  Hamish Oliver
Stage Manager:  Ben Freeth

Theatre ,

A 'tough, sinewy' exploration of the impact of dementia

Review by Christopher Moore 10th Aug 2019

Andre is a retired engineer; a literate, eloquent, somewhat forceful personality but a man of considerable charm and humour.  

Andre finds himself inhabiting a dislocated nightmare filled with unfamiliar places, unexpected threats and unknown faces. This isn’t the urbane, civilised bourgeois world Andre knows. Darkness is overwhelming him but Lear-like he’ll defy it.

Can the real impact of dementia on an individual ever be satisfactorily conveyed within the span of a comparatively short play? [More


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Illuminates with humour, compassion and humanity

Review by Lindsay Clark 04th Aug 2019

Dementia and its manifestation in wretchedly degenerative Alzheimer’s is increasingly the subject of medical enquiry and explanation. The experience of sharing through theatre a vividly imagined world where dementia rules, is something else again.  

Director Simon Bennett, his strong cast and an expressive production team (set, costume, lighting and sound by Nigel Kerr, Deborah Moor, Giles Tanner and Hamish Oliver respectively) draw us deep into the emotional turmoil of lives where reality itself can no longer be taken for granted.  

The play is cunningly structured so that we, the audience, are also left questioning what we saw and heard just moments ago. Situations we thought we had understood, turn into something else, or are recycled so that we are no further ahead, only deeper in the realisation that something is not adding up.  

That, of course is the predicament for the titular character, André, suffering from steadily worsening dementia as the repercussions of his condition force him into permanent care. His daughter, Anne has tried carer after carer, but the ageing ex-engineer is simply unmanageably ‘eccentric’ and his difficult prolonged stay with her has to be resolved.  

Initially it is easy enough to chuckle at the misunderstandings, memory lapses and petty obsessions André lives by. Even the frustrations and startled reactions of Anne, or the efforts of the latest carer to ingratiate herself to this difficult patient, are darkly comic. Not for long. “The shadows are gathering,” he says, in a flash of lucidity. The stage, which began as a comfortably furnished apartment gradually empties, reflecting the vacuum which threatens his mind, and the ultimate reality of his plight is both pitiable and deeply disturbing.  

On the way to this final clarity we experience something of André’s own confusion in evolving stages. Faces are a problem, and furniture. Folk who should be familiar to him, such as Anne and her husband, are not always recognised. One such recurring character voices the fear in his own mind that he is “making a tit” of himself and does so with increasingly sinister intensity. The last perfunctory appearance of ‘A Man’, now clearly a doctor, is especially chilling.  

The cast never falters in establishing André’s shadowy world, their presence always overlaid by his perception. Ailis Oliver-Kerby’s eager young carer Laura, Kim Garrett, simply designated ‘A Woman’, appearing in several compassionate roles, and Owen Black as the mysterious ‘A Man’, are all effective in the challenge.

As Anne’s husband, Pierre, Tom Trevella contributes sturdy ‘common sense’ in comforting her. “He’s ill” offers a palatable explanation for the horror of her father’s disintegrating personality. To be happy, together and alive around a meal table is the moment which matters.

Coping emotionally and in practical terms with André’s condition has Anne, played compellingly by the insightful Luanne Gordon, run ragged. She is required to operate much of the time in André’s distorted world where she is frequently dismissed as not being his other daughter, the one he loved, or in being “just like [her] mother’. Somehow she must also fulfil the day-to-day practicalities of the household and organise carers. The pain of her exhaustion and frustration are sensitively conveyed.

The central focus of the production though is on André and the complexities of his character are what drives the escalating intensity of the play. Mark Hadlow’s experience and quicksilver talents underpin a memorable creation. André’s isolation, his inevitable irrationality and his valiant struggle to make sense of a world where nothing, not even time or what happened moments ago, is certain, is almost unbearably moving. Seeking to understand who he is and what is happening, he creates endless explanations, invents a past where none now exists for him and all the while suffers the horrible pain of isolation. He does not share what everyone around him understands until the last moments of the play, when Lear-like, he is reduced to the basic need for comfort and loving arms.

The production is testing for those in the audience as well as those on stage. Undertaken with humour, compassion and humanity, it illuminates brilliantly areas of emotional experience all too often unexpressed.


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