Who Wants to be 100? Anyone who’s 99

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

18/05/2009 - 30/05/2009

Production Details

Who Wants to be 100? Anyone who’s 99! By Roger Hall saw sold out seasons at the Auckland Theatre Company, the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin, the Court Theatre in Christchurch and Circa in Wellington. And now Centrepoint Theatre are bringing you New Zealand’s fastest selling comedy by New Zealand’s favourite playwright from April 18 to May 30.

Who Wants to be 100? Is set in 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 potter amongst the residents. 

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

Starring Kate Louise Elliott, Peter Hawes, Eddie Campbell, Dra McKay, Stephen Gledhill and David McKenzie.

For some of the Centrepoint cast this is not the first time they have starred in the play. David McKenzie starred in the Court Theatre and Fortune Theatre productions. Centrepoint Theatre’s Artistic Director Kate Louise Elliott starred in the Auckland Theatre Company season, and director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford in the Fortune Theatre production, Kate and Lyndee-Jane both playing the same roles.

Director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford is enjoying working with a very experienced cast, "they have been doing this for years so they know what to do and how to make things work. The script is a gift." she says. Throughout the rehearsal process Lyndee-Jane Rutherford has spent a lot of time with the cast studying the illnesses their characters face, she knows the play intimately and wants to make sure that the audience laugh whilst making them think about how we treat our elderly.

Kate Louise Elliott thoroughly enjoyed her part in the Auckland production of Who Wants to be 100?  In 2007 and is even more excited about bringing this production to the Palmerston North audience "I have never been so happy to go to work every night to do the same thing before! This play is an absolute joy to perform in, it has you laughing and crying from beginning to end – it’s shocking, heart warming and downright hilarious!  The cast are an absolute dream. I can’t wait till you see it – I know you’re going to love it as much as we are going to love sharing it with you." 

One of the cast ironically quotes when asked what the hardest part of working on Who Wants to be 100?  "Learning the lines, the older you get the harder it gets!"

This is vintage Roger Hall: hilarious, disturbing, heart-warming, and poignant.

"With its endearing, quintessentially Kiwi characters, wry humour and sharp observations, Roger Hall’s latest comedy delivers all the elements that have made him New Zealand’s most bankable playwright." – Allan Scott, The Press.

Showing 18 April – 30 May

$25 PREVIEW Friday 17 April-8pm (Bookings: Centrepoint Theatre 06 354 5740)

Performance times: Wednesday 6.30pm, Thursday – Saturday 8pm, Sunday 5pm

Prices: Adult $35, Senior Citizen and Groups of 10+ $30, Senior Gold Card and Community Service Card holders $20, Students with I.D $12.

For booking or more information go to www.centrepoint.co.nz, phone 06 354 5740 or pop into the box office on 280 Church Street.

Treads a tricky course

Review by Richard Mays 13th May 2009

Roger Hall, elder statesman of New Zealand playwriting, still has plenty to say. As Hall’s generation of baby boomers heads towards retirement and beyond, in Who Wants To Be 100 (Anyone who is 99), the playwright turns his focus on the ageing and their care.

Given some reasonably high profile and recent instances of rest home and elder abuse, this is a topical preoccupation – especially for the bubble of ‘boomers who are either settling aged parents into rest homes, or who are now themselves stepping warily into the "twilight years" zone.

To explore this, Hall adopts somewhat of a soapbox approach. The characters constantly break the fourth wall to directly address the audience in a series of mini monologues. There are four elderly male inmates in this wing of the Regina Rest Home, plus assorted members of staff played by Kate Louise Elliot, and visiting family played by Dra McKay.

This device is a shorthand way of quickly filling in backstories and establishing scenes, as well as adding some panache by way of music hall or revue-style showmanship. It also enables David McKenzie’s non-articulate stroke-crippled Charles – emeritus professor of history – to voice his thoughts and neatly underpin the frustration and tragedy of his condition.

Stephen Gledhill’s dapper and personable Edwin, former "golden tongued" QC, still enjoys control over most of his facilities and functions, and acts as prime spokesman. But, just how together his he? Beneath Edwin’s cheery façade, the actor has planted subtle seeds of doubt.

A former All Black and Manawatu rugby rep, Eddie Campbell’s garrulous Leo may always be ready with a funny story, but these days the veteran player needs a walking frame, has developed incontinence issues, and there are questions about his relationship with family.

Randy potter Alan Webster, suffers dementia, and is sometimes lucid – sometimes not; but despite it being labeled as such, whatever Peter Hawes’ character has got, it is not Alzheimer’s.

Elliot’s roles – glib rest home manager, fickle entertainment officer, not too bright but good-hearted caregiver, and aggressive bullying night supervisor – try hard not to be stereotypes, but are a little too purposefully contrived not to be.

McKay, playing the wives of Charles and Alan, and a beautifully rendered grown Aussie daughter to Leo, has much more substance to work with, and accordingly obliges with three distinctive and evocative vignettes.

Hall’s play treads a tricky course between having pointed fun at the expense of rest home staff and residents, and using humour to make valid observations about attitudes to the elderly, their periodically revealed shocking treatment, and how close family members cope with the situation.

Shelley Irwin’s realistic set with individual furnished rooms spanning the length of theatre, makes for some flow-impeding delays in getting on and off stage or moving from front-of-stage day-room to rear-of-stage bedrooms – especially for McKenzie and Campbell who are encumbered with mobility paraphernalia.

Something of a stylistic and genre compromise with the men physically quite a bit younger than their characters suggest, this slightly fussy and occasionally too close for comfort production, manages to be thought-provoking as well as entertaining. Excellent houses and positive audience responses have followed.

[A version of this review was first published in Palmerston North weekly community newspaper, The Guardian]
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