31/07/2021 - 28/08/2021
Going out in style!
Starring Ginette McDonald and Peter Hayden.
“…The script was sparkling, full of heart, tenderness and joy…”
Sir Roger Hall, New Zealand’s most successful and popular playwright has been making us laugh at ourselves for over five decades. This latest comedy revisits not only his brilliance in playwriting, but also two beloved characters who were at the heart of his smash-hit play, Conjugal Rites, which went on to become a popular British TV series in the 1990s.
It’s pre Covid times and boomers Barry and Gen are now enjoying retirement and, having celebrated their Golden Wedding, are facing the dilemmas that come with age – health setbacks and the sad loss of friends.
Should they go to London to visit their long distant grandchildren? Will they qualify for insurance? Should they downsize? Is there too much damn clutter in their lives? And does Barry’s neighbour really fancy him?
Susan Wilson is thrilled to bring you Winding Up having had to re-schedule the season because of Covid 19. She has been involved with Roger’s work since 1975 when she was asked to be part of a play reading of a new work by a colleague, funny man Roger Hall. Originally called A Hard Day at the Office, it went on to enjoy huge success as Glide Time. Susan played Beryl in Gliding On and Market Forces and has directed many of Roger’s plays and all his Circa pantomimes.
She says “He still magically continues to gift us with shocks of recognition while delicately engaging our hearts and minds. Ginette McDonald and Peter Hayden were cast in the previous scheduled season as Barry and Gen and we are fortunate that they are both available again. I hope audiences will delight in Roger’s funny, sharp and poignant comedy.”
Circa One, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington Waterfront
31 July – 28 Aug 2021
Tues – Thurs 6.30
Frid – Sat 8pm
BOOKINGS circa.co.nz (04) 801 7992
“…wonderfully perceptive and insightful…”
Gen: Ginette McDonald
Barry: Peter Hayden
Designer: Lisa Maule
Lighting Designer: Marcus McShane
Costumes: Sheila Horton
Composer/Soundscape: Michael Nicholas Williams
Stage/Production Manager: Deb McGuire
Technical Operator: Niamh Campbell-Ward
Sound Compilation: Deb McGuire
Publicity: Colleen McColl
Social Media: Luke Hempleman
Graphic Design: Rose Miller, Kraftwork
Photography and Photoshop: Stephen A’Court
Set Construction: John Hodgkins, Jared Lewis, Jacob Banks
Set Crew: Simon Manns, Scott McCready, Neal Barber, Rebekah de Roo, Giovanni Maule
Technical Crew: Isaac Kirkwood, Mitchell Sigley, Jack Sutton, Gen Poppe
Fight Director: Simon Manns
Intern: Lynn Bushell MFA (CP) in Theatre (VUW)
Box Office Manager: Sophie Laurenson
Front of House Manager: Harish Purohit
A poignant lesson in undying love
Review by Ines Maria Almeida 03rd Aug 2021
My friend, a successful and popular playwright himself, tells me to bring my oldest, whitest friend to Sir Roger Hall’s latest play, Winding Up. I try to entice a late 40s White/Rarotongan mix, but no luck: he’s off to boogie at a party. Surrounded by well-heeled, white-haired Wellingtonians and with a buttery chardonnay in my hand, I don’t mind being alone, that is until the play begins.
Hall’s latest comedy revisits beloved characters Barry and Gen (Ginette MacDonald and Peter Hayden) who made Conjugal Rites a smash-hit in New Zealand and in England where it became a popular TV series.
In Winding Up, Barry and Gen are well into retirement and 50 years into their marriage. They’re dealing with the obvious dramas of ageing: their friends are dropping off like flies, they have health scares to tend to, and in planning a trip overseas to see a wayward son, they have to plan an inevitable funeral as well. [More]
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Humorous, insightful, poignant and heart-warming
Review by John Smythe 01st Aug 2021
Sir Roger Hall’s humorous, insightful, poignant and finally heart-warming Winding Up picks up the lives of Genevieve and Barry Mayfield some 30 years on from when their Conjugal Rites first graced our stages in 1990. The Auckland Theatre Company managed to premiere Winding Up, directed by Colin McColl, in February 2020, before Covid-19 and Lockdown put paid to production schedules throughout the country. Circa Theatre had planned to open their season in May last year, with Ginette McDonald as Gen and Peter Hayden as Barry – and now, at last, we have it.
It was 45 years ago, in the first year of its existence, that Circa began its mutually productive relationship with Roger Hall by premiering his first full length play, Glide Time. It spun off into the hugely popular TV series Gliding On which ran for five seasons. But the 32 productions of Hall plays that Circa has mounted since 1971 (including 11 pantomime seasons), did not include Conjugal Rites. Downstage Theatre’s artistic director Colin McColl scored the rights to that, as I noted in Downstage Upfront:
“Conceived first as a TVNZ sit-com series called Bed Time, it focused on the bedroom lives of a couple married for twenty years. A pilot episode was shot with Grant Tilly and Raewyn Blade but the project had lapsed and gone into a drawer until Roger re-read it years later and saw its stage potential. Renamed Conjugal Rites, it premièred at Centrepoint early in 1990, was revised by Roger and then directed by Colin McColl for Downstage, with Ray Henwood as the long-practised dentist husband and Glenis Levestam as the freshly graduated lawyer wife.” (See more below.)*
Now Winding Up finds Gen and Barry retired and in the living area of their apartment, amid many in an upmarket complex. The Auckland production placed it in Takapuna with a view of majestic Rangitoto while Lisa Maule’s neatly-appointed set honours Hall’s habit of relocating his plays to each host city by featuring a large painting of Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington Harbour with a diminutive Matiu / Somes Island under the ominous shadow of the Ōrongorongo Ranges. Marcus McShane’s lighting design, as operated by Niamh Campbell-Ward, brings a dynamism to the picture, and to the set at times, during the many scene transitions.
Director Susan Wilson conspires with music and soundscape designer Michael Nicholas Williams to augment the nostalgia component of Hall’s script, brought to the fore by Gen and Barry’s habit of flicking the remote to release a favourite track to dance to, and by Barry’s need to record memories of how different life was back in ‘their day’ on the off-chance that their grandchildren may want to know.
Not that these septuagenarians are winding up their lives in sedentary indolence. It is 2019 and they are planning an overseas trip to include a visit to son Phillip who lives in London with his second wife and the two sons Barry and Gen have yet to meet. Emotional and financial pain attend those vexed relationships. Daughter Gillian lives locally, has daughters, and only phones to ask them to babysit and to critique their lifestyle choices by delivering ‘green lectures’. She gifts her father an Apple watch so emergency services can be alerted if he suffers one of the falls he is prone to now – a device that affords more than one comical pay-off during the play.
The falls are not all that afflict Barry. In the opening scene Gen is on the phone trying to ascertain what impact an unexpected diagnosis will have on their travel plans – a situation that book-ends a fluently crafted script that deftly brings their hoped-for-future and survived past into present collision. That their travel plans include a cruise on the Baltic Sea adds an extra layer of jeopardy, given we now know cruise ships are destined to became ‘petrie dishes’ for COVID-19. But – spoiler alert – they do manage to go and return.
A set of travel photos, cleverly photoshopped by Stephen A’Court, is part of Maule’s AV design. And completing the design suite, Shelia Horton’s costumes subtly express Gen and Barry’s socio-economic status and lifestyle. Like the wine they buy by the box, they are, as Barry quips, “classy whites”.
Before their trip, Barry is given to regular pub dates with his ‘Last Orders’ mates, recording the afore-mentioned memories and protecting his books. As the only lawyer in the complex, Gen is called on for various favours and her role on the Body Corporate includes overseeing the choice of new carpet for the foyer – another of the multiple set-ups and pay-offs that thread seamlessly through the action.
Ginette McDonald and Peter Hayden are superb together, alternately winding each other up and expressing the nuanced familiarity and affection only 50 years of marriage can bring. While the affairs they each had three decades ago (which were central to Conjugal Rites) still rankle, Barry’s propensity for hoarding is a more pressing issue for Gen. Then there are the deaths of family members and friends, which increases their awareness of their own mortality and prompts conversations about their own funerals, and what one will do when the other has gone.
Without giving the ending away, I do have to say it feels odd to me that the final moments are all about Barry when there is equal opportunity to give Gen her due.
Although there are few gaps in the constant flow of dialogue, this production does not feel like a talk-fest. Barry and Gen are often on the move, and their actions are as eloquent as their words and the depth of their relationship – all expertly orchestrated by director Susan Wilson. Peter Hayden’s physicality deserves special mention and Ginette McDonald delivers Hall’s comic gems with perfect timing.
It is always a joy to move into a foyer after the curtain calls amid a buzzing throng of smiling people. Beyond its obvious appeal to baby-boomers, younger people are also beaming; there does come a time when the lives of parents and grandparents become fascinating to the next generations.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: Winding Up is humorous, insightful, poignant and heart-warming. Sir Roger is here on opening night and in his ‘curtain’ speech he intimates he could be winding up his stellar career with this play – so don’t miss it.
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From Downstage Upfront (p316, Chapter 12, VUP, 2004)
Despite the misgivings of most critics, [Conjugal Rites] averaged 95 percent over seven weeks.
In Bums on Seats Roger wrote: ‘There was one piece of staging I was pleased with … Gen and Barry made love. On stage. Except they didn’t. There was a lighting change; the actors sat perfectly still in bed but voiced their thoughts throughout the several stages of love-making right up to the climax. At that point the spell is broken when Barry post-coitally realises with horror that he has forgotten to pay his GST. It worked perfectly. Only Mercury disregarded my stage directions, recording the voice-overs and having the couple wriggling around under the bedclothes, which robbed the scene of most of its effectiveness.’[i] (Nine years later Toa Fraser would be hailed for a similar device in Bare.)
Television producer/director Tony Holden, who had directed most of Gliding On, saw the series potential of Conjugal Rites and directed a revised pilot script with the Downstage cast. When Television New Zealand (TVNZ) rejected it, Roger and family decamped to London on the strength of a successful theatre run in Watford and interest in the series from Granada Television, which eventually produced two series. And TVNZ bought all twelve episodes. ‘My cheque from their screening of two series was about one tenth of what I got paid for a single episode in Britain,’ wrote Roger. He also noted that, with the initial screening of a half-hour episode to 10.5 million people, ‘I had reached many times more people than all my plays put together to date.’[ii]
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