A Shortcut to Happiness

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

18/11/2011 - 17/12/2011

Production Details

Roger Hall is back, at his best…and we have him first!  

If you bore witness to the Fortune Theatre’s record-breaking season of Roger’s Four Flat Whites in Italy, then you won’t want to miss this. 

Inspired by Vicki Baum’s observation… “There are few short cuts to happiness, but dancing is one of them,” Hall’s latest comedy sports his renown trademarks of acute observation, compassion, and, of course, loads of humour. This is not, however, Dancing with the Stars territory but folk dancing, with its infectious music, engaging rhythms and formation patterns. 

The beautiful Natasha, a recent immigrant, from Russia, teaches such a class in order to supplement her income, meet Kiwis, and improve her English. Those who turn up to learn are the desperately-seeking Coral, golfing friends Laura and Janet, U3A know-it-all Bev, and her hen-pecked husband Ray. There’s also the recently widowed Ned, a favourable catch for the ladies, and at whose house, after each class, they all gather for coffee. 

In Roger Hall’s own words: “There is music. There is love. There is loneliness and happiness. There is a recent immigrant coming to terms with the New Zealand way of life. One character does a very brave thing involving a cleaning lady. And nobody dies.” 

Artistic Director of the Fortune and director of the show, Lara Macgregor, says: “What a great way to end a successful year at the theatre. We’ve secured the most boisterous cast to bring this play alive for the very first time – Elena Stejko, Peter Hayden, Lynn Waldegrave, Cathy Downes MNZM, Sylvia Rands, Simon O’Connor, Mary Sutherland, and Patrick Davies. Don’t miss sharing a wealth of happiness with us this Christmas season!” 

By Roger Hall 
Production Dates:  18 November – 17 December, 2011 
Venue:  The Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin 9016 
Directed by:  Lara Macgregor 

Performances:  6pm Tuesday / 7.30pm Wednesday – Saturday / 4pm Sunday (no show Monday)
Tickets:  Gala (first 5 shows) $32, Adults $40, Senior Citizens $32, Members $30, Tertiary Students $20, High School Students $15, Group discount (10 +) $32,

Bookings:  Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin; (03) 477 8323, www.fortunetheatre.co.nz   

Patrick Davies as Sebastian 
Peter Hayden as Ned 
Simon O’Connor as Ray 
Elena Stejko as Natasha 
Lynn Waldegrave as Coral 
Sylvia Rands as Laura 
Cathy Downes as Janet 
Mary Sutherland as Bev
Set Design:  Peter King
Lighting Design:  Stephen (Sooty) Kilroy
Wardrobe Design:  Maryanne Wright-Smyth
Sound Design:  Arran Eley

Stage Manager:  Rebecca Tapp
Set Construction:  Matt Best and Peter King
Lighting Operator:  Siddharth Makkuni Puthiyavalappil
Properties Master:  Jen Aitken
Rigging:  Beth Lomax, Brian Paavo
Poster Design:  Nikki Kidd
Production Photographer:  Aliana McDaniel
Headshot Photographer:  Aliana McDaniel/Miguel Nitis
Programme Design:  Firebrand
Video Trailer:  Miguel Nitis, James Higgs, Lara Macgregor 

Audience shows appreciation

Review by Barbara Frame 24th Nov 2011

The world premiere of Roger Hall’s new comedy concludes a year of stimulating and varied programming at the Fortune. Lighter in tone than many of Hall’s other plays, A Short Cut to Happiness focuses on retired people whose concerns include the lure of discounts, the possibilities of meeting new people on Facebook, and the difficulties of opening jars.

It’s also a love story. Russian immigrant Natasha can’t work in New Zealand as a teacher because her English is limited, so she tries to improve her income, and language skills, by running dance classes. Ned, one of her pupils, seems to have answers to at least some of her problems, but his innate decency and Natasha’s fierce determination turn the path to happiness into an obstacle course. [More


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Heart-warming entertainment

Review by Kimberley Buchan 20th Nov 2011

The appreciative and star studded audience is greeted by the sight of every community hall in New Zealand. It comes complete with honours boards, a zip, fire extinguishers and authentic touches of patchy paintwork around the plugs.

Don’t let the premise of Russian folk dancing put you off. This is a story of loveable losers bonding over desperation and common interests.  In turn it becomes a nice plug for the re-establishment and value of community education. 

Director Lara McGregor aims to give infectious happiness with this production over the festive season. Judging by the belly laughing, awwwing and clap-along audience reaction, her goal was entirely successful.

The cast bringing the first production of this play to life is superb. Passionate Natasha, played by Elena Stejko, scolds us for our lateness and lack of respect for tradition. The up-front and expressive Natasha gives us the incisive outsider perspective as a Russian immigrant opening the way for the inevitable literal language misunderstandings.  Her seemingly favourite quote, “This is very strange country,” is aptly reflected in its odd-bod characters.

Peter Hayden, fresh out of The Truth Game, is charming and affable as nice guy Ned.  Lynn Waldegrave plays a fantastically dotty Coral. Coral’s facial expressions are hilarious, particularly when the stage is revolving, and in fact manage to outshine her brazen flower studded costumes and desperate attempt at seduction through cleavage spillage.

Sylvia Rands and Catherine Downes play best friends Laura and Janet. They give a thoroughly accurate representation of their character’s demographic and reveal so much with just a sidelong glance.

Rounding out the folk dancing regulars we have Mary Sutherland as the dominating Bev, whose face during the Brown Jug Polka is just delightful. And not forgetting my favourite, the adorable rhythmically challenged Ray.  Simon O’Connor gives a stellar performance as Ray, whose lines must have been incredibly hard to learn. 

Just when the cast look like they are getting comfortable with each other, a rather slippery fish named Sebastian plunges into the pool. Although Patrick Davies appears only briefly in this role, his presence ripples throughout the rest of the play.

The characters bicker, cheat, love and paint a portrait of middle class issues and concerns. The dance sequences choreographed by Jessica Latton are enthusiastic and energetic and accompanied by an extremely well-caught shoe, courtesy some lovely person in the second row. 

A slightly apprehensive looking Roger Hall appeared to enjoy the actors’ performance and the audience reaction to the world premiere of his play.  The Roger Hall formula has worked again and was enthusiastically received.

It touches glibly enough on social issues not to make its target audience uncomfortable, and proffers heart-warming entertainment for the Christmas season.   


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