A Shortcut to Happiness

By Annemarie Quill

Two left feet are no obstacle to love.

That is the message of A Shortcut to Happiness - the Roger Hall play coming to Tauranga with a host of big name actors from the Auckland theatre company including Laura Hill and Alison Quigan, formerly of Shortland Street.

The play's title comes from a statement by Austrian writer Vicki Baum that, "There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them," says Alison Quigan, who directs as well as stars in the show.

The play is a feel-good comedy about a man who when quietly adjusting to retirement and life on his own, meets a no-nonsense Russian folkdancer Natasha, who teaches him love and adventure can come at any age - a shortcut to a new life of happiness he wasn't expecting."

Laura Hill plays Natasha, an emotionally volatile Russian.

"I shared a dressing room at Shortland Street with Alison Quigan, so we're good mates. When she asked if I would do the role of Natasha, I was excited about the opportunity to work with her again."

Hill enjoyed the challenge of the role Roger had created.

"She (Natasha) is quite opinionated, but there's something quite appealing about someone who is so open with her feelings. Challenges were getting the accent right, and learning the dances well enough to be able to call out the steps ahead of time!"

Roger Hall said the inspiration behind the play is the combination of the fun of dancing and "the great catchy music that goes with it".

Like many of his plays, underlying the comedy is a more serious social message.

"Perhaps that we could be a bit more understanding about what immigrants go through in getting established in a new land. Plus the plight of overqualified immigrants who can't get a job in their own field here. And seeing NZ from an outsider's eyes."

Hall is often called New Zealand's most famous playwright.

"Roger Hall has charted the lives of an entire generation.

"Ever since Gliding On, he has amused New Zealand all by lovingly poking fun at our Kiwi foibles," says Quigan. Hall is more modest about the accolade.

"I suppose it is true based on the number of plays I have written (about 35) and the number of people who go to them. So in that sense, yes, I am successful. (And I also think most of them are good plays. But, as Mandy Rice-Davies once famously said, 'Well he would say that, wouldn't he?'."

He likes the theatre as opposed to the screen.

"The joy of theatre is seeing a live performance and seeing an audience enjoy it. And if there are bits that don't work, I can change them."

Laura Hill says she likes theatre and screen for different reasons.

"They exercise different acting muscles, so I appreciate the challenges of that. It's hard to beat the buzz of performing in front of a live audience though; their feedback is an integral part of the performance, whether they're aware of it or not."

Despite several theatre roles, Hill is still recognised mostly for Shortland Street even though she has been off the show for four years now.

"That's okay, mostly people are really nice about it. I was on the show for a long time (nearly 7 years), so it's not surprising the association is strong. Shortland Street is an iconic show in NZ, and a lot of people feel a strong connection to it.

Laura has been recently doing more screen work so stay tuned.

As well as Laura Hill and Alison Quigan, the play also stars Stuart Devenie and Cameron Rhodes.

Roger Hall says that going on audience feedback so far, Tauranga audiences can expect "a funny, very entertaining night at the theatre with great acting and enjoyable music."

Creative Tauranga also invites you to attend Lunch with the Actors on Friday, August 3, from noon. Every year Creative Tauranga host this luncheon at the prestigious Tauranga Club and it has been a great success - and a lot of fun! For further information and reservations contact the team at Creative Tauranga on 928 5270 or reception@creativetaurnaga.org.nz.

The Fine Print

WHAT: A Shortcut to Happiness presented by The Auckland Theatre Company

WHERE: Baycourt

WHEN: 2-4 August 2012 @ 7.30pm

- Bay of Plenty Times

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