Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton

12/07/2012 - 14/07/2012

Hawkes Bay Opera House, Hastings

27/07/2012 - 28/07/2012

SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

07/06/2012 - 30/06/2012

TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

20/07/2012 - 21/07/2012

Baycourt - Addison Theatre, Tauranga

02/08/2012 - 04/08/2012

Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland

05/07/2012 - 07/07/2012

Production Details

For a little mid-winter romance, Roger Hall’s joyous new play A SHORTCUT TO HAPPINESS is coming Auckland’s SKYCITY Theatre on June 7 before transferring to the Bruce Mason Centre on July 4, and then heading on a wider tour to Hamilton, New Plymouth, Hawkes Bay and Tauranga.

Ever since GLIDING ON, Roger Hall has amused us all by lovingly poking fun at our Kiwi foibles. 

We’ve laughed at hilarious travel hi-jinks in FOUR FLAT WHITES IN ITALY, adored the old men of WHO WANTS TO BE 100? and loved the O.E. tales of our four Shirley Valentines in TAKING OFF. Now we’ll be swept off our feet by Roger Hall’s romantic comedy.

In classic Roger Hall style, one-liners abound and satire mixes with poignancy making A SHORTCUT TO HAPPINESS a hilarious and heartfelt show.

“another Roger Hall masterpiece…hits the spot” Dominion Post

A SHORTCUT TO HAPPINESS’ recognisable kiwi characters will have you laughing in the aisles. 

There’s Ned, quietly adjusting to retirement and life on his own, the man-hungry Coral, old friends Janet and Laura, serial-class-takers Bev and Ray and the no-nonsense Russian folk dancer Natasha, who teaches them all that love and adventure can come at any age! 

A SHORTCUT TO HAPPINESS is about discovering the ways of a new country, accepting differences, finding love and dancing your way to happiness.

“classic Roger Hall stuff…New Zealand characters he portrays so well…good fun and lots of laughs…just what the doctor ordered” The Press

Our stellar cast including Stuart Devenie (FOUR FLAT WHITES IN ITALY), Laura Hill (TAKING OFF), Cameron Rhodes (THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST) and Alison Quigan (SHORTLAND STREET) strap on their dancing shoes as Hall’s misfit characters.

“A Shortcut to Happiness… brilliantly proves what a splendid craftsman Roger Hall is” Theatreview

The title, A SHORTCUT TO HAPPINESS, is derived from a statement by Vicki Baum that “There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.” Combine that quote with Roger Hall’s own recent participation on folk dancing classes and, as the author himself says, “I can feel a play coming on.” 

Hall is New Zealand’s most successful playwright. His distinctive comic voice celebrates the resilience of his characters and also encompasses social commentary.

Hall’s earliest drama was for television, but in 1976 he wrote his first stage play GLIDE TIME. The play catapulted him to the forefront of New Zealand theatre writing and its characters have become national icons.

Many successful plays followed, including MIDDLE AGE SPREAD (which ran for 18 months in London’s West End and won the Comedy of the Year Award), PRISONERS OF MOTHER ENGLAND, SPREADING OUT, BY DEGREES, MARKET FORCES, C’MON BLACK, SOCIAL CLIMBERS, THE BOOK CLUB, TAKE A CHANCE ON ME, A WAY OF LIFE, TAKING OFF, and WHO WANTS TO BE 100?, along with stage musicals including FOOTROT FLATS, LOVE OFF THE SHELF and DIRTY WEEKENDS. 

In addition, Hall has written pantomimes, radio dramas, books and plays for children, and comedy series for television, most notably GLIDING ON, MARKET FORCES and CONJUGAL RITES for Granada TV.  

Hall was awarded a QSO and the Turnovsky Prize in 1987. He holds an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from Victoria University and was the Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton in 1997. He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in 2003. 

“Roger Hall is back to delight us once again. There is a clash of cultures and prejudices as a group of laid-back North Shore retirees confront the strict discipline of a Russian folk dancing class. This is classic Hall – incisive, funny and full of compassion.” says Colin McColl, ATC’s artistic director. 

By Roger Hall

07 – 30 June 
Book 0800 Ticketek (842 538)

North Shore
Bruce Mason Centre
05 – 07 July
Book 0800 111 999 

Clarence St Theatre
12 – 14 July
Book 0800 Ticketek (842 538)

New Plymouth
TSB Showplace 
20 – 21 July 
Book 0800 111 999 

Hawkes Bay 
Hawkes Bay Opera House
27 – 28 July
0800 Ticketek (842 538)

Baycourt Theatre 
02 – 04 August 
Book 07 577 7188 

Stuart Devenie – Ned
Laura Hill – Natasha
Alison Quigan – Bev
Sylvia Rands – Laura
David Aston – Sebastian
Cameron Rhodes – Ray
Bronwyn Bradley – Coral
Catherine Downes – Janet 

John Parker - Set & Costume Design
Philip Dexter - Lighting Design  

No Shortcuts here

Review by James Wenley 13th Jun 2012

I attended A Shortcut to Happiness on Saturday night, the same night as the All Black/ Ireland test.

Stuart Devenie, always a class act, made a pithy reference to the night’s other big event, as his character enters an empty dance studio, save for fretting instructor Natasha (Laura Hill) – Saturday nights are no good for dance, especially when the All Blacks are playing Ireland!

Roger Hall needn’t worry though. As I look around the close to full Sky City Theatre it confirms that any day is a good day for a Roger Hall play, even after over four decades of play writing. Sure, there’s a healthy group of audience members who stand forlornly like puppies outside the Nation’s Clubrooms round the corner from the theatre, to check the score, but they all return for the second half. [More


Make a comment

Opening night shortcomings in journey of discovery for seniors

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 10th Jun 2012

While this production had some issues on opening night, fans of our most prolific playwright’s latest work will be pleased to know his much loved hallmarks are liberally sprinkled throughout the script: accessible circumstances and some recognizable characters plus those classic laugh-out-loud one-line gags. 

The premise of Roger Hall’s latest play is familiar: a collection of distinctive individuals meet on a weekly basis to enjoy community dance lessons. It reminds me a lot of another ATC season I attended just 2 years ago, Stepping Out by Richard Harris.

However, Hall’s dance classes are a journey of discovery for seniors, who grapple with the loss of loved ones, find new love and learn to love a new way of life, through this enjoyable flexible formula.  

Hall embellishes the plot with the comic twists that stem from ‘fish out of water’ and ‘lost in translation’ set-ups. He achieves this by successfully turning his muse, recent Russian immigrant Natasha (Laura Hill), into a refreshing voice box for summarising how many newcomers see us. The opening night audience loved her.

At times I wanted to give Natasha’s rants a standing ovation. Hall makes a couple of them refreshingly topical, political and caustic. From the shortcomings of our bulk-standard-Kiwi-men, through our “holier-than-thou” attitude towards smoking (in the face of far worse social atrocities) to our inability to build houses that stay warm, Natasha is a welcome voice for those Kiwi traits that drive so many mad – myself included. Her “shorts, sports and no culture” rant is a personal favourite.

Recently widowed Ned (Stuart Devenie) is another satisfying character, who’s given plenty of Hall witticisms, with gags about My-Sky, the thieves behind Blue Chip, bastard CEOs, the youth of today and his ungrateful kids. Ned also closes the first half with the best one-word reincorporation of a gag I’ve heard in a long time.

Despite the huge age gap casting wise, the dynamic between Natasha and Ned is the most interesting, in terms of character development, with more seeds of familiarity (My Fair Lady/ Pygmalion/Pretty Woman).

In terms of pure entertainment, the entrance of the play’s very own ‘Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum’ (AKA married clone-couple Bev and Ray) – a fantastic pairing of Alison Quigan (also director) and Cameron Rhodes – is a show stopper.

John Parker’s set design is clean, spacious and appropriately lit by Phillip Dexter MSc. Sound design by J.P. M’Ginty – essentially a series of pre recorded traditional folk tunes, piped through the theatre – is also apt.

Parker creates two functional locations: the community dance hall and Ned’s house. While the first set change is interesting, with lights and walls flying in and out, and side compartments rotating, by the end of the night, watching the time-consuming sequence is bit tiresome. For ideal flow, the design needs two fly men, not one. Members of the cast fumbling through a few dance moves in a huddle during these transitions does little to tighten the lag.

Parker (also costume designer) has fun dressing the cast in a mix of sensible expectation (Ned and Laura) and loud almost pantomime-like styles. Parker and actress Catherine Downs, channel aspects of Outrageous Fortune’s Cheryl West, to present their brash and bossy Janet. At first I thought Helen’s costume was too garish – Trelise Cooper-esque leopard and panther prints from head to toe – until I found myself standing next to a Helen replica at the bar during interval. Scary. 

Garish is a word that often springs to mind when the trio of women – Coral, Laura and Janet – carried the show. Coral, played by Bronwyn Bradley, who is lonely and looking for love in all the wrong places, dissolves into histrionics at times, as does Downes. Both are at their best when they dial in back a bit.  

To be fair, as characters, the 3 women are written with a lot in common: all of them sharing too much information, too nosey, too obvious, too chatty, too loud, and too lecherous. The complete lack of subtlety, en masse, is a bit of an assault to the senses. Perhaps if just one character had been that way inclined, it would’ve carried. But presented ‘in stereo’, it is a bit too much of a not-so-good thing.

I know there’s a plot to drive, but by the time all three have spilled their personal lives onto the floor within minutes of meeting, to me, and many in my row, these scenes feel forced, contrived and corny, rather than quirky, familiar and funny. As a consequence, rather than seeing these three woman as believable types, I find the characters less and less likable, to the point that I stop caring about them. 

Friday’s show lacked the full opening night sparkle and polish. Technically, the venue’s crew had a bad night, with scratchy mics, crackles and pops. Added to that, the evening didn’t seem to percolate and bubble along. As the stranger next to me commented, “so many long silences and pauses.”

Portraying the happiness and joy of dancing is essential to this play’s success yet some in the cast seemed tired, as evidenced not only in dance sequences (perhaps there are too many?) but by fumbled lines, dropped words, self-correcting and gabbling.

Besides the obvious exemption, Cameron Rhodes – whose dialogue-free performance is muted to perfection – the notable exception is Laura Hill, who delivers a near flawless performance in all aspects of her craft, from dialogue to dance (well set by choreographer Marija Stanisich).  

Hill carried the cast on opening night. Sassy, brassy, and voluptuous, she looks and sounds gorgeous and shines in the role.  

Personally, I would love to see more of David Aston’s perfectly pitched character, Sebastian. The arrival of this slimy player, with all the right moves, is most welcome and almost overdue. He brings a much-needed distraction to the trio of chatterboxes, Coral, Laura and Janet.

I’m sure with fine-tuning between script and performance, this production will bed in well. Opening night’s shortcomings feel temporary.

While the end is predictable, it is satisfying for many. In fact, the opening night audience, which included many core funders, councillors, politicians, sponsors and industry folk, clapped along on cue, and in time, to the final Russian Dance. Many in the audience were uplifted and entertained. Roger Hall fans will not be disappointed. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council