Theatre review: Same Time, Next Year, Pumphouse Theatre

By Dionne Christian

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Slade play touches on big themes in its exploration of affair over many years.
Kate Elliott and Paul Glover are not-so-starcrossed lovers Doris and George.
Kate Elliott and Paul Glover are not-so-starcrossed lovers Doris and George.

Doris is a housewife and businesswoman taking her first steps in the corporate world; George is an accountant away from home at a conference.

Their eyes meet across a crowded hotel restaurant and the attraction is undeniable, but there's no "happily ever after" for these two.

Bernard Slade's play Same Time, Next Year looks at what happens when two people are inextricably drawn to each other but are already meant to be enjoying "happily ever after" with their respective spouses.

Perhaps because it was written in the early 1970s when divorce wasn't as common, Doris and George decide they do actually love their other halves - not to mention the six children they have between them - so they'll stayed married but meet for one day each year.

The romantic comedy won the 1975 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New American Play and was made into a film starring Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda.

Now it's being staged by the North Shore's Tadpole Theatre.

Auckland actors Paul Glover and Kate Elliott take the lead roles while John Callen, well known for his role of Oin in The Hobbit trilogy of movies, directs the play.

Callen, a professional actor for more than 40 years, says Same Time, Next Year is set at a time when "if something was broken, you didn't throw it away; you fixed it" which explains why the characters don't want to leave their marriages.

"There's a sense of reluctance to betray all the people around them for their own pursuit of happiness which they decide would be incredibly selfish."

Set from the 1950s to 1975, the play explores 25 years of changing manners and morals in five-year time spans.

But Callen says it isn't just about one relationship; it cleverly uses the relationship between two ordinary people to challenge perceptions of morality and to look at more far-reaching social and cultural change.

"The room they meet in doesn't change, but the world around them most certainly does," he says. "All the 'big themes' in modern history are touched on: religion, feminism, politics and morality itself."

Elliott, who recently finished shooting a bio-pic of Jean Batten's life, Jean, says the same kinds of themes would emerge if the play was modernised.

"It's an intriguing period of time, politically and socially, and their own personal journeys mirror what's happening around them," she says.

Known for roles in Bliss, Shortland Street and The Cult, Elliott has appeared in a handful of stage productions and wanted to play Doris partly because it's just her and George, played by Paul Glover, on stage for the entire duration.

"There's a great deal of responsibility when it's just you and one other person on stage; there's no down time at all."

Like Elliott, Glover finds the premise absorbing. Soon to finish shooting the second series of TV drama 800 Words, he says Same Time, Next Year will challenge ideas about relationships, morality and what makes us the people we are. "Bernard Slade has written a beautiful piece."


What: Same Time, Next Year

Where and when: Pumphouse Theatre, Takapuna; May 12-22.

- Weekend magazine

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