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Roger Hall’s New Play Spreading Out World Premiere

Roger Hall’s New Play Spreading Out Gets World Premiere

New Zealand’s most popular playwright, Roger Hall, revisits the characters from his hugely successful comedy, Middle Age Spread, in his new comedy, Spreading Out, which makes its world premiere at the New Zealand International Arts Festival in 2004.

Spreading Out will be presented in conjunction with Wellington’s Circa Theatre where Middle Age Spread premiered 27 years ago, and in a programming coup, the 2004 production will star the original cast of Middle Age Spread – Grant Tilly, Dorothy McKegg, Ray Henwood, Jane Waddell, with Perry Piercy, Peter Hambleton and Nikki MacDonnell.

In Spreading Out we meet our characters 27 years later, now in their 60s, with children in their 40s. The action takes place over three days around New Year’s Eve at the home of Colin and Elizabeth, now retired to the Wairarapa on a lifestyle block growing grapes – Pinot Noir of course.

Three generations of the family have gathered to celebrate the New Year when they receive some unexpected guests, their old neighbours, Isobel and Reg. They arrive in their campervan from Queensland and invite themselves to stay. What materialises is a flare-up of family differences and peer resentments in another comedy of bad manners from the pen of Roger Hall. Spreading Out is funny and revealing as it comments on our 2004 lifestyles and we will laugh with self-recognition.

Of Spreading Out, Roger Hall says, “I didn’t set out to write a sequel to Middle Age Spread, I set out to write a play about people in their sixties adjusting to the limitations of advancing age and their disenchantment with the way the country is going. Then (as with Market Forces) I realised the perfect characters already existed to illustrate the points I wanted to make. My audience seems to have come along for the ride with me ever since Glide Time and Middle Age Spread all those years ago, so this is for them … and their grown–up children.”

Its predecessor, Middle Age Spread, was an immediate success. After a sell-out season at Circa Theatre, where it opened on 16 November 1977, the show transferred to the Opera House in 1978. It was also made into a film (starring Dorothy McKegg and Grant Tilly) in 1978 and in 1979 the London West End production (starring Richard Briers and Paul Eddington) received the award for Comedy of the Year.

Spreading Out, with the funding support of Creative New Zealand, will be directed by award-winning director, Ross Jolly, who is also well-known for his portrayal of the character of John in Roger’s first stage play Glide Time at Circa in 1976, and its subsequent television series (Gliding On) and sequel Market Forces.

Jolly says, “I have been associated with Roger Hall comedy for over 30 years and still marvel at Dr Hall’s ability to put his finger on the pulse and simultaneously tickle our funny bone. Roger is, quite simply, our foremost comedy writer as Spreading Out ably demonstrates - it’s another fine Hall prescription for sharp satire and truly amusing comedy.”

Roger Hall was born in England in 1939 and emigrated to NZ in 1958. He first worked for State Insurance, later working as a teacher and editor with the Education Dept before winning the Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago in 1977. His earliest scripts were for television, but in 1976 he wrote his first stage play Glide Time (opened at Circa Theatre 11 August) which helped establish him as New Zealand’s best known and most commercially successful playwright. Many successful play productions followed including Middle Age Spread, By Degrees, Market Forces, C’Mon Black, Dirty Weekends, Social Climbers, The Book Club, You’ve Gotta Be Joking!, A Way of Life and Take a Chance on Me, together with musicals, pantomimes, radio dramas, books and plays for children and comedy series for television, most notably, Gliding On and Market Forces. Hall was awarded a QSO and the Turnovsky Prize in 1987, a Commemoration Medal 1990, the 1996 Katherine Mansfield Fellowship for study in Menton, and a Hon Doctorate of Literature from Victoria University, 1996.

Director Ross Jolly was a founding member of Circa Theatre, Circa councillor, actor and freelance theatre and television director. Ross has directed many productions for Circa over the past years including Moonlight, F.I.L.T.H., Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Travels with my Aunt, the record-breaking smash hit Social Climbers, the award-winning Taking Sides (Best Circa Production 1997), the acclaimed production of Heretic for the 1998 NZ International Festival of the Arts, and most recently, The Cripple of Inishmaan, How I Learned to Drive, Waiting for Godot and Humble Boy, plus many more. Ross won Director of the Year for his production of Waiting for Godot, at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards 1999.

The Bruce Bornholdt Season of Spreading Out opens 28 March.

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