Hāwera Repertory’s A Christmas Crack Up 2 is the perfect way to get yourself into the Christmas spirit this year.
From the opening scene of the first of the three plays through to the final bow of the last, there’s no silent night to be had, with every play providing countless laugh-out-loud moments.
In the first play, The Morning After by Carole Hosie, the audience is reintroduced to everyone’s favourite rest home residents, Olive and Maude, who first appeared in last year’s seasonal offering from Hāwera Repertory - Gingernuts.
Carole once again plays grumpy but lovable Olive, while Felicity Willis returns to the stage as the uptight but vulnerable Maude.
Both are perfect in their roles and their physical comedy is absolutely brilliant throughout. The scene is nicely set by Jax Francis as the rest home nurse, and she is a master at saying a lot while not speaking - her facial grimaces, eye-rolls and general demeanour are great fun to watch.
Carole has created some fantastic characters in Olive and Maude and I am sure I’m not the only audience member to be planning to put “a play about what Olive and Maude do next” on their Christmas list after finding the characters as relatable and endearing as they are comedic.
In Stormy Weather written by another talented local writer, Cherol Filbee, we meet depressed and lonely Chrystal (Lorraine Wilkie) who is wondering if her husband is having an affair. She confides in beauty salon owner Lindsay (Todd Woollett) who is aghast when he realises she’s quite right - her husband is having an affair - with him! Plenty of comedy ensues as he tries to counsel Chrystal while hiding this rather large secret.
Todd and Lorraine bring some great energy to their roles, and do Cherol’s script justice, bringing out the comedy without making it too farcical. The two actors are well matched on stage, and even when prompts are needed, they keep the pace going nicely.
The final play of the night is An Almost Correct Christmas Story written by New Plymouth playwright James O’Sullivan. This light-hearted take on the classic Nativity story is absolute gold, especially when brought to life by such a talented cast and crew.
From the moment narrator Cherol Filbee stalks on to the stage, the scene is set for what is a truly brilliant piece of theatre.
Deborah Clough, as the angel, is one of the comedic highlights of the evening and she absolutely owns it. She gets plenty of deserved laughs every time she appears on stage, as does Clive Cullen as the grape-eating Caesar.
Every actor in this play gets plenty of laughs, and each one brings some wonderful comedy to their role - from Ron Scott’s resigned Joseph to the arguing star gazers, not a line is wasted on this talented cast. It feels like they are having plenty of fun in the play, and that translates to the audience having plenty of fun watching it, with lots of small details hidden for the audience to discover - from an interesting costume for the narrator to a hungry angel, there’s an extra laugh to be found in every moment.
All three plays were directed by Charles Pittams, which tells you what to expect - clever, thoughtful acting designed to bring out the comedy without going overboard. The set design is deceptively simple, but clearly well thought out for each play. Wardrobe and makeup are the same - did I mention the narrator’s costume - a brilliant sneaky piece of humour adding an extra layer.
This smorgasbord of plays is the perfect way to feast on some great Christmas cheer this silly season, and if Santa is listening - I’m serious about my Christmas wish for more of the gingernut geriatrics - tell the elf known as Carole Hosie to get on to it, please.
What: A Christmas Crack-Up 2
Where: Repertory House, Collins Street, Hāwera
When: November 29 - December 3