Who Wants to be 100? (anyone who’s 99)

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

23/02/2008 - 03/05/2008

New Zealand International Arts Festival

Production Details

Circa Theatre and the 2008 International Festival of the Arts, are delighted to present Roger Hall’s latest hit comedy – Who Wants To Be 100? (anyone who’s 99) which opens in CIRCA ONE on Saturday 23rd February at 8pm.

Roger Hall is, without doubt, the most popular playwright for audiences throughout the country. In this heartfelt new comedy he turns his sharp satirical pen on everyone’s secret dread – the old folks’ home.

Be nice to your children, they choose your rest home!!

Welcome to the Regina Rest Home where the old boys’ network is alive and kicking with a retired Q.C., an ex-All Black, a former university professor and a famous potter among the residents.

Restless, irrepressible and determined to enjoy their twilight years they declare war on illness, old age, guilty wives, greedy off-spring and the quality of the catering!

With his celebrated gift of having his finger on the pulse of the lives of ordinary New Zealanders, Hall has, over the past 30 years, taken us on an hilarious roller-coaster ride with snapshots of our journey from the civil service, to mid-life crises, to mature students, suburban share clubs and book clubs, to overseas travel and retirement. It is fitting that Roger’s newest comedy faces ‘the next step’ as he exposes our hopes and fears, joys and sorrows – and makes us laugh!

"Was it because he came originally from another culture, that Roger was able to so sharply critique and capture the foibles of ours?" asks director Ross Jolly, who has been involved as an actor and director with Hall’s work now for over 30 years (since the seminal Glide Time in 1976). "Roger has demonstrated an uncanny ability to mine comedy gold from unlikely topics. His social comedies have made him a household name (a trivial pursuit question) and a trusted brand. A "Roger Hall" to audiences, means a funny, satirical, entertaining, damn good night in the theatre.

"And Who Wants To Be 100? is all of the above. All the familiar ‘Hallmarks’ are on display as we meet the middle class codgers and the underclass who attend them.  Our social status quo is brilliantly captured and chronicled.

"So, is this Roger Hall’s funniest, darkest comedy? All I can say is that it has been the fastest selling play in New Zealand theatrical history!"

For this season of Who Wants to be 100? Ross Jolly has assembled a stunning cast of actors with an unsurpassed history of playing ‘Roger Hall’:

Ken Blackburn, Ray Henwood and George Henare have all experienced the delighted audience responses from the sell-out seasons in Auckland or Christchurch.

"This is the most serious funny play I have ever been in," says Ray. And George is relishing his foray into the life of an Alzheimer patient – "Ahh – second childhood – no memory, no cares, no responsibility, no inhibitions. Bring it on!!" he says. Ken quite simply considers Who Wants to be 100? the best play Roger has written so far.

Peter Hambleton gets to experience the tribulations of old age a little earlier than most (and is grateful to all the good people at Te Hopai Nursing Home where he has been doing some research for the role).  "I’ve now had the great privilege of playing characters of all ages in Roger Hall’s plays," he says. "Baby P in Who Needs Sleep Anyway?; Colin in Middle Age Spread; and now an elderly man in Who Wants to be 100?".

Jane Waddell and Jude Gibson were both last seen at Circa in a very different ‘Hall’ experience – the pantomime, Jack & the Beanstalk!  

"I have been performing in Roger Hall’s plays since the late 1970’s," says Jude.  They have included the original Cinderella, By Degrees, Social Climbers, Middle Age Spread, Cinderella – revamped, Jack and the Beanstalk, and now Who Wants to be 100?.  Whether it’s pure entertainment, comedy or drama Roger always seems to have his finger on the pulse of the day.  I am continually amazed by his ability to ensnare unpalatable portions of NZ life and serve them up as an appetizing dish for an audience."

For Jane: "Having breathed life into many of Roger’s women (Middle Age Spread, By Degrees, Take a Chance on Me, The Book Club, Spreading Out) I’m relishing the challenge of creating three characters in Who Wants to be 100? Two wives and a daughter provide a textured insight into the impact of declining health on immediate family with truth, humour and compassion."

So – Stand by for geriatric hi-jinks as Hall teaches some old dogs a few new tricks.

With its endearing, quintessentially Kiwi characters, wry humour, astute observations and legendary one-liners, Who Wants to be 100? is vintage Roger Hall. 

Elaine / Debbie / Sharon / Gloria: 
Edwin Davis:  RAY HENWOOD
Charles Benson:  KEN BLACKBURN
Alan Webster:  GEORGE HENARE
Sarah / Audrey / Mary:  JANE WADDELL


2 hrs 30 mins, incl. interval

Hall fans won’t be disappointed

Review by Lynn Freeman 06th Mar 2008

Who Wants to be 100, this story about four old codgers in a rest home, really resonated with the audience, which is what Roger Hall does better than anyone.

This production is directed by Ross Jolly and starring Ray Henwood who probably know more about staging Roger’s work than anyone else in the country.  As ever, Roger Hall intertwines comedy with the thought provoking, in this case notably a resentful rest home attendant who harms the patients. 

Henwood plays a lawyer who’s admitted himself to the home, the others though are not happily there – Alan (George Henare) has Alzheimer’s and desperately wants to return to his pottery. Leo (an unrecognisable Peter Hambleton) is a former All Black who is the life and soul of the rest home but who is estranged from his daughters, while poor old Charles (Ken Blackburn) is silenced and deeply frustrated by a stroke. 

We meet two of the wives, both of whom are dealing with their decisions in different ways, and both played by Jane Waddell – who just needs to accentuate their differences.  Jude Gibson gets to play a variety of roles, from the caring Sarah Elaine to the busty Gloria to the nasty Sharon.

Hall fans, though they may as I did find the first half far too long, won’t be disappointed.


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Funny, insightful and finally moving

Review by John Smythe 03rd Mar 2008

I’ve given up waiting for Roger Hall to get back to writing another play that sustains the unities of time, place and action without resorting to direct address to introduce his characters.

The fact is he has made an art form of getting characters to tell their back-stories in expositional monologues that entertain, in after-dinner speaker style. And it works: long season with full houses of happy customer attest to that. So why should he set himself the task of weaving such information into ‘present action’ sequences, they way most playwrights do?

One way or another, whatever our own age, home truths about aging do emerge to give us pause during Who Wants to be 1oo? (anyone who’s 99) – an answer I and some of his characters would dispute, by the way, because it depends on your states of health and wellbeing, both physical and mental.

George Henare and Ray Henwood have been co-habiting in plays about old men for almost a year now: Heroes at Circa, in which they were joined by Ken Blackburn; I’m Not Rappaport at Downstage; Who Wants to be 100? with the ATC … Meanwhile Blackburn did Who Wants to Be 100 at The Court, and now the inimitable triumvirate is together again in this Circa production, reviving their already-established roles.

Henwood is Edwin Davis, the silver-tongued ex-barrister who has yet to confront the erosion of his capacity for magnanimity.  Henare is the highly sexed Coromandel potter of some repute, Alan Webster, whose creeping Alzheimer’s keeps his daily encounters fresh. Blackburn dwells in the benignly frustrated world of stroke-victim Charles Benson, once a history professor, now unable to articulate his thoughts, feelings and memories to anyone but us, the audience.

For my money the play would be stronger – more interestingly perceptive and poignant – if Charles were the only narrator but no, everyone gets a go and the audience is happy with that, it seems to make things easier all round …

Peter Hambleton, who last year played Baby P in the Downstage production of Roger and Pip Hall’s Who Needs Sleep Anyway, is ex-All Black Leo, the fourth aging inmate we get to know of the many in the single men’s wing of this branch of the Regina Rest Homes franchise.

All four nail their characters with practised aplomb, playing their gags impeccably, touching our hearts with their private pain, finding the pathos that underpins good social comedy.

Jude Gibson, who plays four care-giver characters, and Jane Waddell, who plays two wives and a daughter of three of the men, both appeared in Circa’s Jack and Beanstalk and Waddell was also in Who Needs Sleep Anyway. With their roles being to support and challenge the men so that we get to know them better, they necessarily have less dimension and fewer opportunities to win our empathy.

In the performance I saw (the first Sunday matinee), Gibson laid Elaine, the Rest Home administrator, on with an unsubtle towel to begin with but as her pragmatic awareness of life’s realities kicked in (e.g. the board’s main interest is in making profits, not caring for the elderly), her points were made less frenetically. The rest are clearly drawn archetypes: Debbie, the ditzy nurse with a heart of gold until she’s betrayed; Sharon the bitter and twisted abusive night nurse who stays employed because the pay and conditions in this sector are too poor to attract better people; Gloria, the ebullient activities leader whose patience also gets sorely tested.

Waddell finds true understanding in her roles. Alan’s wife Sarah is unable to cope with his Alzheimer’s but happily accepts his philandering (an especially delicious scene with Henare and Gibson’s Elaine). Charles’ wife Audrey, with her faculties intact, necessarily moves on from focusing all her love on the shell of the man her husband once was. Mary, Leo’s estranged daughter, married and living in Queensland, epitomises the dysfunctional result of having a father whose love of his game was greater than anything else.

While Edwin and Leo are largely the authors of their own non-medical fates, Charles and Alan are victims of relatively random circumstance. The inevitability of death is not ignored and I would challenge anyone not to be moved by Blackburn’s exquisite rendering of ‘Abide With Me’.

This Ross Jolly-directed production of Who Wants to be 1oo? is funny, insightful and finally moving. It delivers.


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The funny business of ageing

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 29th Feb 2008

Old age is not funny but Roger Hall is determined to make us laugh as well as cry at it in Who wants to 100? From the reactions of a largely elderly Sunday matinee audience I’d say he definitely succeeded. It’s close to the bone but mostly the funny one.

Following his now regular prescription of taking a cross-section of New Zealand stereotypes and providing them with brief story lines, Roger Hall has also given them topical one-liners, jokes, comic sketches, opportunities to talk directly to the audience and comment on the action, running gags, the occasional sharp social observation, some good old-fashioned tear jerking moments as well as an equal share of the limelight.

The play follows four male residents of the Regina Rest Home as they cope with the problems of age (bowels, bladder, memory, family, lack of sex, etc) each other, the overworked, underpaid staff, and the deadly routine of the home.

Edwin (Ray Henwood) was a wealthy silver-tongued lawyer; Leo (Peter Hambleton) was an All Black; stroke victim Charles (Ken Blackburn) was a history professor from the UK and is able to talk to the audience but only mumble to the others; and Alan (George Henare), a potter from the Coromandel, is placed by his wife in the home because he is suffering from Alzheimers.

The staff and the men’s relatives are played by the quick-changing Jane Waddell and Jude Gibson. The nurses are portrayed as either vicious, or not very bright, or smoothly competent but not caring, while the inner thoughts of the relatives reveal a similar indifference, even callousness, towards the men.  

All the actors slip sleekly into their characters with professional aplomb, but only George Henare as Alan seems not to be acting but existing in a wilderness of his own. After his performance, particularly in his opening scene, and remembering Gary Henderson’s moving Home Land at Circa last year, it’s hard to accept the overt theatricality of the pain of old age in Who wants to 100?


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