THE HERETIC

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

18/07/2013 - 10/08/2013

Production Details



The Devil May Wear Prada But Dr Dianne Cassell Wears Fur 

Auckland Theatre Company will re-open Maidment Theatre with Richard Bean’s The Heretic on July 18, starring Jennifer Ward-Lealand in the comedy role of the year.  

Horrified that global warming has become less climate science and more quasi-religion, Dr Dianne Cassell argues the science is not so clear cut. It’s a stance that’s getting her branded as her the global warming anti-Christ.  

Richard Bean’s riotously un-PC comedy The Heretic won the 2011 Evening Standard Award for Best Play. An accomplished stand up comedian, Bean’s most recent smash hit One Man, Two Guvnors came to Auckland Arts Festival earlier this year.  

“Its originality and humour outweigh its minor blemishes, guaranteeing laughs from devoted environmentalists and climate change sceptics alike.” – Manchester Review  

She’s leaves her carbon footprint in Jimmy Choo.
She’s a scientist – She doesn’t believe in anything.
She’s the heretic.  

Dr Dianne Cassell is the pin up girl for the skeptics. An opinionated scientist who makes Paul Henry look like the leader of the PC brigade. She’s also in hot water with the Sacred Earth Militia, at odds with her anorexic Greenpeace daughter and in trouble with her faculty boss – and former lover – who sees Global Warming as a funding cash cow for her university, if only she’d shut up.  

The politics of science, the idiocy of academia and the chaos of family life collide in this wonderfully irreverent comedy about truth, lonely hearts, brilliant minds and blowing yourself up on Top Gear. Provocative, pugnacious, contrarian and entertaining.  

“An absolute corker, funny and touching… A play on the side of life and optimism.” – Daily Telegraph 

Richard Bean is one of the Britain’s most exciting and prolific playwrights. Between 1989 and 1994 he worked as a stand-up comedian and went on to be one of the writers and performers of the sketch show Control Group Six (BBC Radio), which was nominated for a Writers Guild Award. His first full length play, Of Rats and Men was staged at the Canal Cafe and went on to Edinburgh. He adapted it for radio for the BBC and it was nominated for a Sony Award. His breakthrough play Toast found critical acclaim at the Royal Court Theatre in 1999.

He has won the George Devine Award 2002 for Under the Whaleback, the 2004 Pearson Play of the Year Award for Honeymoon Suite and the Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play 2005 for Harvest. Oberon Books publishes his Plays One, Plays Two, Plays Three, England People Very Nice, London Assurance, The English Game, In the Club, The Big Fellah, The Heretic and his stage version of David Mamet’s House of Games.

He has also translated and adapted Moliere’s The Misanthrope, published as The Hypochondriac, and Le Pub! by Serge Valleti. His new play One Man, Two Guvnors, based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, premiered at The National Theatre in May 2011. 

Tickets can be booked from Maidment Theatre on 308 2383 or www.atc.co.nz  

Maidment Theatre   
July 18 – August10  
Preview – Thursday 18 July  
Opening Night – Saturday 20 July – Reviewer’s Night  
Closing Night – Saturday 10 August 


Jennifer Ward-Lealand - Dr Diane Cassell
Jess Holly Bates - Phoebe Cassell
Jordan Mooney - Ben Shotter
Andrew Grainger - Geoff Tordoff
Stelios Yiakmis - Professor Kevin Maloney
Lauren Gibson - Catherine Tickell  

Alison Quigan - Director
John Verryt - Set Designer
Sara Taylor - Costume Designer
Jane Hakaraia - Lighting Designer
Sean Lynch - Sound Designer 



Pleasantly controversial

Review by Matt Baker 23rd Jul 2013

Regardless of whether one believes in it or not, climate change is undoubtedly a hot topic, and British playwright Richard Bean has clearly done his homework on the subject. While The Heretic could easily be a vehicle for playwright pontification, there is nothing terribly dogmatic in Bean’s writing, nor is the character of Dr. Diane Cassell by any means elevated to anything other than scientist, lecturer, and mother.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand is appropriately cast as said doctor, with a drive that is factored by technicality rather than emotion. As Professor Kevin Maloney, Stelios Yiakmis balances the right amount of respect, frustration, and love for Diane, but holds back, especially vocally, when the gloves come off. His nonchalant asides are brilliantly timed, especially in the second act. [More]

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Climatic wit in science farce

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 22nd Jul 2013

British playwright Richard Bean brings razor-sharp wit and an amusing sense of the absurd to this high-spirited romp through the fractious terrain of climate change science. 

As in his sensational adaptation of the commedia classic The Servant of Two Masters, the skilfully structured plot has scintillating dialogue neatly combined with poignant personal drama and riotous farce. 

The impact of the satire is somewhat blunted by a crude dualism in which climate change activists are dishonest, self-serving and incompetent while the sceptical heretic never wavers in her devotion to the exalted realm of pure science. [More]

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Thought-provoking, lively and stylish

Review by Heidi North 21st Jul 2013

Everyone knows that climate change is a fact: the sea levels are rising and CO2 emissions are to blame. But what if everyone is wrong? What if all the evidence is wrong? This is the question that award-winning British writer Richard Bean poses in The Heretic.

At the heart of the piece is Dr Diane Cassell (an excellent Jennifer Ward-Lealand), a feisty, rigorously scientific mind who can’t afford to ‘believe’ in anything but must challenge and test every hypothesis. Her speciality, measuring the sea levels in the Maldives, leads her to conclude that they have not risen in 20 years. As expected, this scepticism is frowned on by her colleagues and her line manager Kevin (Stelios Yiakmis). Naturally this leads to various complications.

Things are further complicated by Dr Cassell’s tussles with her anorexic Greenpeace-activist daughter Phoebe (a fierce and prickly Jess Holly Bates) and her clever but unstable student Ben (Jordan Mooney), who’s strict beliefs on saving the planet mean he only eats locally grown vegetables with lashings of garlic to ward off the resulting methane gasses he ‘emits’. 

Bean’s play is rather unrelenting in its portrayal of the youthful generation as passionate, but largely emotion-driven activists. Not to mention the scorn with which he views the figure-bending and money-driven scientists that surround Dr Cassell. Only she, as the pure voice of reason can be the clear hero of the piece.  

Bean’s own notes on the play say that he is not attacking the validity of climate change, so much as the shoddy scientific thought on the matter. But it’s hard to separate the playwright’s personal thoughts (for him the jury’s still out) from the piece.

Overall, it’s a slick production. The cast nail their Yorkshire accents and bring the scientific jargon skilfully to life. The banter whips and cracks; the doses of humour and the well-spun web of relationships make the piece eminently watchable. Special mention to Jordan Mooney’s touching love song.

It’s excellent to go to the theatre to have your beliefs challenged, and to remember that fear-mongering and shocking statistics are weapons for politicians not scientists, but it would be foolish to reduce this play to a mere scientific debate. Bean also reminds us that human beings are complicated, emotionally messy creatures. No matter what rigour Dr Cassell can apply to her science and research, she cannot help herself wanting, when it comes down to it, only to save her daughter above all others.  

A thought-provoking and stylish show.

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