Glide Time

Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

06/12/2007 - 22/12/2007

Production Details

This is a New Zealand classic, the play that jump-started the theatrical career of Roger Hall. He created characters whom we recognized, who spoke like us and behaved like us – but who made us laugh at the same time that they made us wince or weep.

Glide Time, which was written in the late 1970s, was recreated as a popular television series, Gliding On, and has recently been revived as a stage play whose humour and subjects for delight and derision are as immediate today as they were almost 30 years ago.

John:  Andrew Morrison
Hugh:  Bert Nisbert 
Jim:  Brian Kilkelly 
Beryl:  Emily Duncan 
Michael:  Dylan Shields 
The Boss:  Don Knewstubb  
Wally:  Andrew Cook 

Stage Manager:  Neal Barber
Tech: Jeffrey Vaughan 
Set Construction: Jeffrey Vaughan 
Photography: Melanie Peters 
Front of House:  Alison Finigan, Alison Embleton, Rosemary Beresford, Stephany Frost 

Laughter and affection at failings and follies of fellow NZers

Review by Terry MacTavish 16th Jan 2008

How we have advanced! Public Service employees nowadays are professional, competent, and fully satisfied in their work. We no longer demean others with sexist and racist jokes. And no-one will ever wear flares again. No, wait…

The Globe clearly decided, as did Silo, that 30 years should be a comfortable distance for a revival of the play that first demonstrated Hall’s fiendish flair for holding a mirror up to Godzone. The satire that bit then, will surely raise no more than a smug reminiscent smirk today.

Andrew Morrison, director of this slick production of Glide Time, writes, "While all that beige and paper may seem to belong firmly in the 1970s, the sense of faceless bureaucracy at the heart of the play still begs the question of how far we have progressed, given the nightmare world of middle management and the current climate of political correctness run amok."

True enough, and yes, there are moments when a contemporary chord is struck, but for the most part this revival succeeds simply because the experienced cast inhabit their slightly farcical, stereotypical roles with such confidence and commitment that the audience enjoys engaging with them, and the jokes are made to appear fresh again. While we share a month of life with the seven assorted public servants, nothing happens (except for the chance of promotion) but gags are smartly released from the starting box and take off running merrily in all directions, somehow managing to cross the finish line in a tight cluster to appreciative applause.

The mood is instantly set by the hideous cluttered ’70s office with piles of paper in imminent danger of avalanche, and the chirpy musical plaint of ‘Monday, Monday’, while windy Wellington is indicated by the irruption onto the stage of a dementedly inside-out umbrella, closely followed by its owner, John, cursing the maniac who’s stolen every bloody heater.

John, the most intelligent yet cynical in the office, is played with frustrated energy and great style by Andrew Morrison, one of the few directors whose work doesn’t seem to suffer when he is also one of his own cast. (Wonder if he gives himself notes?) He flicks off John’s wisecracks like vicious paper-pellets and his act of simulated hari-kari is a joy to behold. Morrison is admirably balanced by Brian Kilkelly, actually loveable as rumpled, grumbling Jim, the heater thief with a troubled home-life who has spent the night in the office.

Emily Duncan makes a sympathetic Beryl, feminising the office with flowers on her desk, eating at 10 to 12 so as not to waste her lunch hour having lunch, and managing a surprisingly poignant, last-ditch affair with a colleague. She gets one of the biggest laughs of the evening as Beryl chattily encourages a wilted cactus: "We’re waiting for you to brighten up the room!" I enjoyed Duncan’s interpretation of Beryl as more efficient and far less tragic than I recall from earlier productions.

Promising young Dylan Shield brings an awkward charm to squeaky-clean new boy Michael, taking in good part the merciless ragging by his workmates. The clichéd scene of the unsophisticated Christian boy trying his first daring taste of alcohol has never been handled with more subtle aplomb.

Bert Nisbet successfully brings out the pathos in the lugubrious Welsh immigrant Hugh, and Don Knewstubb as the pompous retiring boss gives a masterly interpretation of a typically tedious farewell speech. Rounding out the cast, Andy Cook is utterly obnoxious and very funny as officious Wally, who epitomises the maddening world of box-ticking bureaucracy.

I resurrected my review of the ’70s Fortune production to find, "If the play didn’t make me wince to be a New Zealander, the audience would; all of them delighted to see themselves shown up! … or do they think it applies only to their neighbours?!" Somewhat less self-righteous nowadays, I found myself not only laughing at the failings and follies of my fellow NZers, but actually feeling affectionate towards them … thanks to the Globe’s very smooth glide through times past.


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