Who Needs Sleep Anyway?

SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

07/06/2008 - 28/06/2008

Production Details


Father, grandfather and New Zealand’s most popular playwright Roger Hall, has joined forces with his daughter Pip Hall for the first time to write WHO NEEDS SLEEP ANYWAY? opening at SKYCITY Theatre on June 5.

"Fun, funny and lively" Dominion Post

Look back and laugh at the trials, tribulations and joys of parenthood New Zealand style.

With Nana wrapped around his little finger Baby P (that’s P for Plunket) takes his parents on a rollercoaster rider through the first five years of life – and 100 years of colourful Kiwi history.

From ante-natal classes to anti-immunisation campaigns WHO NEEDS SLEEP ANYWAY? is in turns hilarious, wonderful and emotional – rather like parenthood really!

"WHO NEEDS SLEEP ANYWAY? hits the spot … as you’d expect from a Hall play." Otago Daily Times

Last year Mark Hadlow had one foot in the grave in Roger Hall’s hit comedy WHO WANTS TO BE 100? This year, by the magic of theatre, he’s back at the other end of life’s journey starring as Baby "P" (for Plunket) in the side splitting comedy WHO NEEDS SLEEP ANYWAY?

Returning to the stage is Kate Louise Elliott. Best known to Auckland audiences for her recent performances in MUM’S CHOIR and WHO WANTS TO BE 100? Elliott is one of New Zealand’s finest comic actors. She has appeared in Roger Hall plays in theatres throughout the country and is relishing joining Hadlow as the Plunket Nurse recording Baby P’s growth and dealing with his antics!

WHO NEEDS SLEEP ANYWAY? continues Hall’s long tradition of writing plays which New Zealander can relate to" says, Auckland Theatre Company Artistic Director (and father of one and a half year old), Colin McColl, "it touches the perils and pleasures on parenthood perfectly!"

Back in the Director’s chair for this production, John Callen is thrilled to be working with such a hot team: "I have New Zealand’s best comic actors in Mark Hadlow and Kate Louise Elliott and the Hall’s really have their fingers on the pulse, their observations of parenthood are very funny, it’s a delightful show," says Callen.

Making their debuts with Auckland Theatre Company in WHO NEEDS SLEEP ANYWAY? as the startled and sleep deprived young parents are Johnny Bright and Sophie Henderson.

Changing costumes faster than a Plunket Nurse can change nappies will be Stephen Butterworth, Hera Dunleavy, Nicola Flynn and Adam Gardiner who play a host of colourful characters Baby P encounters in his first 5 years.

WHO NEEDS SLEEP ANYWAY? plays at SKYCITY Theatre from June 5 until 28. Bookings can be made at Ticketek 0800 842 538 or www.atc.co.nz  

SKYCITY Theatre, June 5 – June 28
Tuesday – Wednesday 6.30pm, Thursday – Saturday 8.00pm
Matinee Saturday 21 June at 2.00pm 
Sundays 4.00pm 
Tickets: $25 – $54 (booking fees apply) 

Starring: Mark Hadlow
with Johnny Bright, Stephen Butterworth, Hera Dunleavy, Kate-Louise Elliott, Nicola Flynn, Adam Gardiner and Sophie Henderson

Designers: Andrew Malmo, Rachael Walker, Nic Smillie

Uneasy marriage of history and farce

Review by Shannon Huse 09th Jun 2008

Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Who Needs Sleep Anyway? – now playing at SkyCity – may confuse theatre-goers because it is not a play.

Written by Roger and Pip Hall, this ‘entertainment’ is a celebration of 100 years of Plunket that combines skit-type humour with song, dance and social history. The story switches between the fascinating history of Dr Sir Truby King and Plunket and the story of average Kiwi parents Paddy and Polly struggling with the everyday dilemmas of raising a child. [More]


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Light, frothy, frictionless

Review by Nik Smythe 09th Jun 2008

The opening vignette of classic iconic sights (buzzy bee, kiwifruit slice, mothers and prams etc) and sounds (babies crying ‘mama’, gurgling etc,) pulls us into focus, whereupon the innovatively named Baby Plunket (Mark Hadlow) enters and sets the tone for the night: it’s all about him, that is to say, the baby.  Everyone who has worked as a parent knows what this means.  

‘Baby P’ covers the housekeeping and gives a brief overview of the night’s proceedings – "Tons and tons of puns – you have been warned!"  Hadlow’s baby bits are generally amusing, although his trademark switching between cute and/or stroppy anklebiter and articulate grownup gag is somewhat overused.  Co-presenter Kate Louise Elliot as the stalwart Nurse Daisy provides a historical exposition of the Plunket Society, and together she and Baby P conspire to ensure the little brat’s behaviour serves as an effective trial by fire for his hapless young parents Polly (Sophie Henderson) and Paddy (Johnny Bright). 

Turn of the night for me was Dr. Truby King (Adam Gardiner), a kind of Dr Dolittle meets Inspector Gadget, known historically for many groundbreaking achievements throughout his life.  There’s a very entertaining quality to this eccentric character, who’s pioneering life story can be found at Wikipedia, along with the story of Plunket which was founded by Doctor King and Lady Victoria Plunket in 1907.

Stephen Butterworth takes much comedic credit for his varying roles including the ugly baby at the baby pageants that were held by Plunket as fundraisers in the 40s and 50s.  Butterworth also comprises most of the fairly limited reference to indigenous cultures in the piece, plus he choreographed the numerous upbeat dance routines.  

Co-writer Roger Hall, the world’s most successful Kiwi playwright, has colluded with his daughter Pip to scribe what essentially is a spectacle of shallow characters and broad humour.  However Hall sr’s box office record will attest to his works’ appeal to the lowest common denominator, as does the substantial laughometer reading on opening night.

The interwoven history of Plunket that Daisy discloses in chapters throughout the play is presented in a glib sort of way that somehow makes the information hard for me to absorb.  Also a couple of short lived moments of real drama, one in each act, hold moments of much wanted substance and resonance, but they are quickly gone again in accordance with the apparent mandate to keep everything lighthearted, not too confrontational.

John Gibson’s sfx soundscapes and musical arrangements performed by the cast, primarily acapella with some percussive accompaniment, are an impressive entertainment highlight.  The costume design of Nic Smillie also offers some appealing examples of fashions through the ages.

Set and lights by Rachael Walker and Andrew Malmo round off the professional veneer convincingly, yet beneath all this plus the undeniable talent of the charismatic cast, the real point of this exercise is lost on me. 

Director John Callen must take responsibility for the mechanical, demonstrative performance style.  Indeed, the corny material the script provides lends itself to a light, frothy, frictionless style such as this overall production offers.  Who Needs Sleep deals with family based – that is child friendly – issues in an adult vernacular.  While all production values are in place giving the appearance of a whole, complete work, there is something confused about where it fits. 

If it were half as long with less unnecessary swearing it would resemble a high budget Theatre in Education show, except it may well be deemed inappropriate to verse adolescent teenagers on the ins and outs of child rearing.  It’s not really clear who the play actually is for.  Parents have much to relate to, but hardly really need reminding about most of it. 

The real target for this live infomercial must be the aspiring parents who may not be aware of the exemplary, world leading service that Plunket provides.  As such the main justification for supporting the show is the promotion of Plunket itself, a most excellent and world-leading organisation dedicated to the health and welfare of all New Zealanders aged nought to five.

In short: not exactly a riot, although I did consider starting one.
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