Satire on ageing a bundle of joy

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Perils of grandparenting gently sent up in Hall’s latest.
Peter Hayden and Darien Takle are in fine vocal and physical form in  You Can Always Hand Them Back .
Peter Hayden and Darien Takle are in fine vocal and physical form in You Can Always Hand Them Back .

Roger Hall's collaboration with British singer songwriter Peter Skellern throws up an entertaining confection celebrating the joys and hazards of grandparenting.

The production marks the 40th year of Hall's remarkable career, one that has provocatively held a mirror to the foibles of middle New Zealand.

The play presents a gentler image of the twilight years than the brutally pessimistic satire of Who Wants to be 100? The mellowing could be attributed to Skellern's witty ditties as they gently poke fun at the afflictions of age. Even tackling the horror of geriatric sex, Skellern offers the uplifting tone of a torch song.

There are moments when the sting of Hall's satire pierces through the sweetness and he builds a poignant picture of grandparents supplying cheap labour before being neglected as the ravages of age take hold.

The biggest laugh of the night comes with a caustic comment on the fashionable practice of burying a child's placenta but the play never really unleashes the comic potential of a grumpy old man's perspective on modern parenting.

The mood is relentlessly positive and the pitter-patter of tiny feet is shown to be a powerful antidote to any troubling thoughts about the meaninglessness of existence.

Peter Hayden and Darien Takle are in fine voice as they deliver a skilfully understated display of physical clowning. Jason Te Mete is a delightfully ironic presence at the piano and Rachael Walker creates a kitschy aesthetic with garish digital photographs.

- NZ Herald

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