Rest homes are proving to be fertile ground for playwright Roger Hall as he glides past 40 something years of delivering box office gold to New Zealand theatre.
Last Legs has all the elements of Hall's inimitable brand arranged with the cosy convenience of a well-designed retirement unit. The sharply drawn characters canvass a range of recognisable Kiwi types and grant audiences the pleasure of seeing their own stories presented on stage.
Vivid observations of personal foibles generate plenty of humour and a hint of pathos as characters reflect on the disappointments that occasionally bring them to the brink of despair. A smattering of gentle satire on political follies and pop-culture trends is served up with a generous dollop of Benny Hill style sexual shenanigans.
The entire package is neatly wrapped in a flawless dramatic structure with a frenetically funny finale and director Colin McColl adds some amusing physical theatre in staging a geriatric game of bridge.
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If the formula is starting to look a bit tired, the laughs come thick and fast, and the drama is enlivened by performances from some of our finest acting talent. Louise Wallace is feisty and engaging as the long-suffering wife of a dodgy real estate agent with an electrifying stage presence thanks to Mark Hadlow's bravado performance.
Ray Henwood finds an appropriately laconic tone for a retired university professor, rejuvenated by an affair with a flirtatious actress, and Catherine Wilkin brings an appealingly independent spirit to her nuanced portrayal of a woman of ill-repute.
Alison Quigan displays immaculate comic timing as she inhabits the psyche of a Forest & Bird stalwart who once made herself self-sufficient in cucumbers while Margaret Mary Hollins captures the aloof snobbery of an academic wife who looks to culture to fill the void of a loveless marriage.
What: Last Legs
Where & When: ASB Waterfront Theatre, until September 30
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton