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Roger Hall

On Friday evening we went to the theatre in Dunedin.  It was a play called You Can Always Hand Them Back by Roger Hall.  Roger Hall is the New Zealand equivalent of Alan Aychbourn, but not as dark.  His work is more identifiable than challenging, and he is hugely popular, at least with a certain age group.  He came to NZ from Britain and since his forties has written plays appealing to baby boomers, really.  This one was about grandparents, with just three actors, the two grandparents and a pianist giving the occasional sharp comment.  Children are not seen though they are there in the audience's imagination.  

Hall's plays are humorous and touching, and the actors were excellent, most particularly Grant Bridger playing the grandfather.  This one was a musical and I did feel the duets suffered slightly from the actress's rather sharp voice; she was excellent in the solo she did, but his voice was beautifully mellow and hers didn't quite match it.   But songs like Doing the Twice a Night Tinkle Tango (ie having to up to the toilet) and My Hearing is Absolutely Fine were hits.  It was a collaboration with English song-writer Peter Skellern.  Perhaps the biggest laugh of the night came when the grandfather tells us he has talked to an audiologist and needed to see how close he needs to be to his wife before she hears him, so he asks her from a distance what they are having for tea and she doesn't turn or answer; he goes closer and then closer repeating it, and finally she turns and says, "For the third time, it's fucking chicken."  [I don't think Hall would have used 'fucking' ten years ago.]

One critic said, "No one knows his audiences better than Hall.  They are liberal middle clas Kiwis, happy to laugh at themselves, and now aging gently along with him. They too are New Zealanders, longing to see themselves on stage.  So yes, Hall still holds his place, one of our foremost 'abstract and brief chonicles of the time'.  

Very pleasant entertainment with just enough pathos as the grandfather ages, sickens and dies.  Grant Bridger, with no help from changing makeup or clothes, manages to show this all very credibly, somehow shrinking and aging and greying before our eyes.

Thanks for that, Caro. I hadn't heard of Roger Hall before.

       Big Readers Forum Index -> All things theatrical
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