BWW Review: MIDDLE AGE SPREAD at Pumphouse Theatre Takapuna, Auckland
Tadpole Productions "Middle Age Spread" played to an appreciative audience at it's opening last night at the Pumphouse Theatre in Takapuna.
Written by Roger Hall it is a classic, cleverly crafted comedic commentary of 1970's New Zealand middle class. Opening in 1978, "Middle Age Spread "is one of Hall's most successful plays, with an extended Wellington season, a New Zealand-made movie and a West End production that ran for 15 months.
This play stands the test of time and like Oscar Wilde who made frivolous fun of 'the dilemmas of the people at the time' Hall's work has evolved into an historical lens that pokes fun at 'from whence we have come'.
Trapped within the confines of social conformity, duty and expectation are three couples, attending a dinner party out of obligation rather than fun. No one wants to be there, nor do they particularly want to be in their own lives.
Tadpole Productions have assembled some stellar performers who both subtly and not so subtly reveal their personal struggles.
The characters are doing their best to contain their unhappiness, apart from the cynical Reg that is. Reg (Barry De Lore of recent Pop Up Globe notoriety) is going to 'tell it as he sees it' brave and at times caustic in his words. However he still remains unhappily married to the long suffering but beautiful Isobel (Lisa Chappell) who seeks solace in her hand made crafts while Reg reaches for the whiskey. Chappell cleverly portrays Isobel's dissatisfaction in her anguished expression, subtly letting us know the unhappiness that simmers just below her skin; bright hippy clothing suitably juxtaposed to her sadness.
Anna Baird plays a Penelope Keith style Elizabeth and contrasts her husband, the recently appointed Principal Colin played by Scott Harding. Harding plays a very down and disillusioned Colin, going through the motions of life rather than living. His beige-brown outfits reflecting his demeanour - until he gets the smart green overcoat. Despite his attempts to free himself Colin seems destined to shoulder the trials of the world on his shoulders. The audience are privy to some of the more difficult intimacy issues between Elizabeth and Colin well delivered in true Hall comedy.
Benjamin Murray brings a classy 'Robert Redford-meets-MichaelCaine' perspective to his character Robert, a moody-broody ambitious guy who is dedicated to serving society's demands. Complimenting him is beautiful wife Judy played by Jane Hawkins. Hawkins could have slipped into a 1970's Charlie's Angels role with ease. They appear to be the perfect couple but with all of Hall's characters nothing is as it seems.
Although Middle Age Spread is 40+ years old, the inclusion of the complaints of the cost of housing both rentals and ownership is something that is obviously mirrors us today. The plight and struggle of teachers and the 'point' of secondary school is also there along with the differing views around politics expressed in a not too dissimilar way in today's world. The comedy is just as current as ever.
The climax of this play is well delivered with the perfect mix of disaster and comedy. Accolades to co-directors Janice Finn and Louise Wallace for how it plays out effectively.
As an aside, the tribute to Roger Hall that sits inside the programme is a lovely touch and a wonderful keepsake.
Middle Age Spread
9th -19th May