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Writer needs no introduction – but is ready to give one

Flagstaff Team

A special coming together of theatre craft in Takapuna will be held next week with readings of the latest work by renowned playwright and local resident Sir Roger Hall.

Tadpole Theatre Productions is giving one-off matinee and evening performances of Hall’s Whine and Cheese at the PumpHouse, with an introduction by the company’s patron – the playwright himself.

The event celebrates the 10th anniversary of the company which was set up to champion professional productions on the North Shore.

A retrospective of sorts, Whine and Cheese draws on material from Sir Roger’s long ca- reer, including the 83-year-old’s observations on how his work was received. Part memoir, part theatre talk, it takes in scenes and songs from previous plays.

Leading Auckland actor Simon Prast will read the role of Sir Roger in what is a workshop-style presentation directed by Paul Gittins. Prast will be joined by other noted actors in Darien Takle, Paul Barrett and Andy Grainger.

PumpHouse manager James Bell said the style of production was an opportunity for theatre lovers to get an insight into how a play was developed from workshop-style sessions and audience reaction. Full productions were then developed. “It’s a glimpse at how plays are written and developed these days.”

Whine and Cheese was also a chance for a behind-the-scenes look at one of New Zealand’s iconic playwrights, with the production including his reaction to various reviews over the years, said Bell.

Since its inception in 2021, Tadpole has brought two works a year to the PumpHouse Theatre, although Covid-19 interrupted its more recent scheduling. The first production was The Lion in Winter, chosen in line with Tadpole’s founding model of picking successful plays with small casts to help offset the financial fragility of live theatre, while delivering crowd pleasing offerings. Its next production will be in September.

Sir Roger, who was born in England, emigrated to New Zealand in 1957, and began writing for television in the 1960s.

His plays have won both national and international recognition. They include Glide Time (1976) about civil servants, a play that was made into the 1980s television series Gliding On. Overseas audiences picked up on Middle-Age Spread (1978), which had a West End, run and Conjugal Rites (1991) which became a UK television series. The characters had a second life in Winding Up, which was put on by the Auckland Theatre Company in 2020.

Sir Roger, who was a founder of the New Zealand Writers Week, has been recognised with a host of theatre awards and fellowships. He has also written more than 20 children’s books and an autobiography, Bums on Seats, published in 1998. He was a co-writer of Footrot Flats the Musical.

In Takapuna, he started the Christmas Day beachside tradition of staging a scene from Bruce Mason’s one-man play The End of the Golden Weather.

  • Whine and Cheese is on at PumpHouse Theatre on Wednesday 1 June at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets $20. Bookings at pumphouse.co.nz