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Playwright Roger Hall

Playwright Roger Hall

Scene from play 'Middle Aged Spread'
Scene from play 'Spreading Out'

Above: images from the stage production of 'Spreading Out'

Who Laughs Last

Roger Hall is New Zealandís most popular and successful playwright. He has written 27 stage plays, plus many television series and musical comedies. Writing one or two stage hits is impressive, but continuing to hit the jackpot for three decades is absolutely phenomenal. We have no writer with an achievement like his, and since the '70s Hall has played a key role in keeping theatres afloat and local actors in work.

This programme explores the secrets of why Hall has been so successful. There are interviews with many well-known actors and directors, including John Clarke (who made Fred Dagg a much-loved character in New Zealand, then became one of Australiaís leading comedians and writers). Ginette McDonald talks about Hallís acute ear and how he encouraged her to develop the Lynn of Tawa character. She also talks about the potential danger of finding aspects of oneís own life in a Hall play. Grant Tilly and Dorothy McKegg, who had the leading roles in Middle Age Spread, talk about what itís like playing those same characters in Spreading Out, 27 years after the original play transformed our local theatre tradition. The documentary includes scenes from Spreading Out seen for the first time on television.

Many of Hallís plays are based on relationships. He comments jokingly that marriage is a more interesting subject than murder. The bedroom scenes in his plays include the classic exchange between Colin and Elizabeth in Middle Age Spread, and the outrageous bed scene in Conjugal Rites, performed especially for this programme.

27 minutes

Screened on Artsville, TV One (TVNZ) 2006



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