Who Wants to be 100? Anyone Who’s 99
07/06/2007 - 30/06/2007
By Roger Hall
Directed by Alison Quigan
AUCKLAND THEATRE COMPANY
Following the tradition of Taking Off, Middle Age Spread, Take a Chance on Me and Spreading Out comes Roger Hall’s latest comedy: Who Wants to be 100? (Anyone Who’s 99). Laugh. Cry. Take Notes.
Auckland Theatre Company warms this winter up with a heart-racing new comedy by New Zealand’s best-loved playwright, Roger Hall: Who Wants to be 100? Anyone Who’s 99, on stage at SKYCITY Theatre from June 7-30.
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 amongst 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!
Directed by Alison Quigan (Mum’s Choir, Shortland Street) and starring leading New Zealand actors Mark Hadlow, Raymond Hawthorne, George Henare and Ray Henwood as you’ve never quite seen them before, Who Wants To Be 100? is classic kiwi comedy about that place everyone dreads – the rest home.
With his finger on the pulse of the baby boomer generation’s deepest concerns Who Wants To Be 100? is vintage Roger Hall comedy, says actor Raymond Hawthorne:
“Four old men sit out their days and amuse themselves – and the audience – regaling each other with their colourful lives as they lead a hilarious crusade against the inevitable – it’s gilt-edged Roger Hall at his best.”
Celebrated for guiding the baby bomber generation through the share-market crash, middle-age and retirement, Halls says it was only a matter of time before he set a play in a rest home: “Rest homes have become something of a hot topic as they move from being run by church and charitable organisations to being run solely for profit“, says Hall. “I visited a few homes and talked to some staff and some residents but the play is almost as much about those who have to place their loved one in a home, as it is about those already in there.”
Continuing a long tradition of presenting Hall’s plays, Auckland Theatre Company Artistic Director, Colin McColl, says Who Wants to be 100? touches on the pleasures and pitfalls of rest-home living perfectly: “This wonderful play addresses yet another serious issue creeping up on my generation – old age – and in true Roger Hall style, he shows us the way with humour, pathos and some very useful facts!”, says McColl.
Back in the Director’s chair for this production, Alison Quigan is thrilled to be working with such a hot team: “I have New Zealand’s greatest playwright and four of the most experienced and exciting actors in the country- whipping these old boys into shape is a challenge I’m looking forward to!”, says Quigan.
Who Wants to be 100? Anyone Who’s 99 promises audiences tears, laughter, and even (yes!) lust.
Who Wants To Be 100? Anyone Who’s 99 premieres at SKYCITY Theatre from June 7-30. Book through Ticketek 09 307 5000 or online at www.atc.co.nz
Kate Louise Elliott - Elaine / Debbie / Sharon / Gloria
Mark Hadlow - Leo Maddox
Raymond Hawthorne - Charles Benson
George Henare - Alan Webster
Ray Henwood - Edwin Mathers
Catherine Wilkin - Sarah / Audrey / Mary
Set Design David Thornley
Lighting Design Andrew Malmo
Costume Design Judith Crozier
Sound Design Jordan Greatbatch
Production Manager Mark Gosling
Technical Manager Bonnie Burrill
Senior Stage Manager Aileen Robertson
Assistant Stage Manager Mitchell Turei
Lighting Operator Robert Hunte
Sound Operator Ben Stockwell
Set Construction 2CONSTRUCT
Costume Construction The Costume Studio
Props Master Bec Ehlers
Male characters resonate best
Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 12th Jun 2007
All the Hall marks are there: perceptive snapshots of ordinary lives, recognisable characters and easily digestible humour. But perhaps because his latest comedy is based in a rest home, and death comes to us all, Who Wants To Be 100? has a more serious undertone than many of Hall’s predecessors (A Way Of Life perhaps being a notable exception).
I mean in no way to suggest that Roger Hall fans and followers will be disappointed or searching for laughs, as palatable jokes dot the script throughout. However, as Hall presents the reality of four mature men living in a New Zealand retirement village, he pushes issues to the forefront such as violence against the elderly by staff; loneliness; abandonment; comradeship; the inevitable fear attached to involuntarily relinquishing control of your body and mind through age; and how age will undo us all, no matter how it happens and who we used to be.
While Hall includes the perspectives and challenges of wives, partners and various female rest home staff, it is his writing of the four male leads, which resonates best. He realistically articulates Kiwi men’s issues. For example, as one character grapples with pain in his prostate, he hisses, "There’s no designer t-shirt for us."
Ray Henwood and George Henare are well cast and strong. Henwood brings subtle depth to Edwin, once a successful QC, big hearted but flawed, who has lost his nerve and checked himself in. Henare, whose womanising character Alan may have been inspired by a well-known 1970s iconic Coromandel hippy potter, immerses himself beautifully in the confusing and disturbing world of Alzheimer’s.
Mark Hadlow, playing ex-All Black Leo, while not always physically and vocally true to his character’s age, predictably delivers excellent comic timing and is a scene-stealer during lighter moments in the evening. (In particular as he reveals Leo’s uncompromising competitive edge).
Raymond Hawthorne gives a heart rending performance playing stroke victim Charles. He weaves effortlessly between the world of his physical constraint and the world in his mind, where he is still an articulate, proud history professor. Hawthorne gives excellent voice to Hall’s insight into the frustration of not being able to communicate basic needs, and the indignation of incontinence and reliance on those around him, an excellent mind trapped in a useless body.
Playing various family members, including Alan’s long-suffering wife, Catherine Wilkin does her best work alongside Henare. Kate Louise Elliott is bubbly as she performs the roles of rest home staff, but is unnecessarily obvious and heavy handed as Sharon, the bullying night nurse.
Some of director Alison Quigan’s creative and technical team add little to embellish the central performances, other than to distract unnecessarily.
The set is limiting and static, in that it is designed so that the most important area, the day lounge, has little depth, meaning all the ensemble scenes are performed in a narrow line. In addition, the four bedrooms behind the lounge are so far upstage, that individual scenes are less engaging. Skycity Theatre is a big space – it is difficult to create intimacy between the actors and the audience as is it is. Finally, the abstract statement of the wallpaper (grey and wrinkly) is at odds with the realistic furniture and fittings it surrounds. However, I did like the way David Thornley designed the 3 corridors so that they gave the appearance of a giant arrow, pointing at the audience, as if to say, "You’re next."
The sound design by Jordan Greatbatch is colourless smooth jazz to die to, yet the play is anything but a smooth ride.
The other disappointment of the evening is the final scene. After the cast sing a sentimental round of ‘Abide With Me’, to accompany one of their group’s ascent towards the bright white lights at the pearly gates, Hall shies away from a more poignant end, by finishing on a witty one-liner.
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