Auckland Theatre Company
Opera House at Toitoi
Wednesday, March 11
Reviewed by Kay Bazzard
What a joy it was to return to the Opera House at Toitoi for its first theatre production after its six-year renovation and strengthening.
Playwright Sir Roger Hall's latest comedy play Winding Up was the perfect show to begin the theatre's new era.
Brought to us by the Auckland Theatre Company, Winding Up revisits Barry and Gen, the couple who featured in the 1990s play Conjugal Rights.
They are now in their 70s and planning their next cruise. Comfortably well off they are living in a smart apartment in a lifestyle village, a set designed by John Parker.
Starring Mark Hadlow as Barry and Alison Quigan as Gen, their familiar characters present the audience with familiar images. For here we all were in the audience, the "boomer" demographic laughing heartily at ourselves as reflected in Hadlow's and Quigan's comfortable and incredibly funny performances.
Hall has his ear perfectly tuned to capture the familiar riffs of a long shared domesticity, a good humoured and unsentimental love that comes with knowing someone for more than 50 years and a lifetime of habit.
Hadlow and Quigan play their stage relationship with an artless truth and joie de vivre - as actors they have known each other since drama school and played together in countless film, television and stage performances over their careers, we know them well.
As always in his plays, Hall has identified the issues relevant to his audience. We are feeling our age and facing up to the late-life decisions, we are attending the funerals of friends and giving the odd thought to our own.
There are the age-related discomforts and inconveniences, the honest look at death, the estrangement with their son in London and the twin boys they have never seen, the daughter who calls with great regularity in need of a babysitter; these are the widely experienced and sometimes difficult issues that have been handled with care and brilliant humour.
We feel touched by the poignant moments only to be whisked into laughter by the honest comedy.
The sensitive moments are never maudlin yet the choice of music linking the acts accentuates them exquisitely. Winding Up is a triumph for all involved. Thank you Auckland Theatre Company.
■ Winding Up has two performances today at 11am and 7.30pm. For tickets go to Ticketek or the Box Office, 109 Hastings St South, Eastbourne Corner, Hastings. Phone: 06-871 5289.