Roger Hall's A Shortcut to Happiness
- Written by: Roger Hall
- Directed by: Ross Jolly
- Circa One
- 14 April − 26 May
"There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them" - Vicki Baum
A fabulous new comedy about the lives, loves and misadventures of a folk-dancing class, A Shortcut to Happiness has all the usual hall trademarks - shrewd observations, much mocking of Kiwis' curious customs, and of course, plenty of laughs.
The beautiful Natasha, a recent immigrant from Russia, teaches the class to supplement her income, meet Kiwis and improve her English. Among the students are man-hungry Coral, golfing friends Laura and Janet, recently widowed Ned, U3A Bev and henpecked husband Ray. And after each class they all gather at Ned's for coffee and a chat ...
Catchy rhythms, funky folk tunes, syncopated steps and comical calamities are the order of the day as all the characters learn to gyrate with skill and expertise - "tripping the light fantastic".
A Shortcut to Happiness is, quite simply, another Roger Hall great night out!
Running time 2 hours, 25 minutes (including 15 minute interval)
Read interviews with cast members Elena Stejko and Peter Hayden on Circa's blog, drama on the waterfront.
Try the show-themed specials at Encore during A Shortcut to Happiness:
Beef Stroganoff, caraway scented rice and braised cabbage $25
Ritzling- Sparking Riesling, Bottled Happiness $12
Call 801-7996 to book your pre-show dinner!
Cast and crew
Elena Stejko, Peter Hayden, Donna Akersten, Catherine Downes, Tim Gordon, Carmel McGlone, Matthew Pike, Jane Waddell.
14 April − 26 May
Tuesday and Wednesday 6.30pm
Thursday - Saturday 8pm
$25 Specials: Friday, 13 April and Sunday, 15 April
Running time 2 hours, 25 minutes (including 15 minute interval)
Seniors (65+) /Students/Beneficiaries $38
Friends of Circa (until 26 April) $33
Groups 6+ $39
Groups 20+ $36
Under 25 $25
Latest Offering Hits Spot in Search for Happiness
Reviewed by Ewen Coleman, The Dominion Post, 23 April 2012
The title of Roger Hall's latest play currently showing at Circa Theatre implies that he has a formula for finding happiness. But as one of the characters says part way through the play “There are very few shortcuts to happiness, but dancing is one of them”. And that is exactly what Hall shows to great effect through his latest offering.
Visiting themes from previous plays of relationships and older folk finding a mate (Take A Chance On Me) and immigrants fitting into the kiwi way of life (Prisoners Of Mother England), Hall deftly weaves a simple story around a group of disparate people pointing up their failings and foibles which he is a master at.
Natasha (Elena Stejko) is a Russian immigrant who has set up a dance class to supplement her income as a house cleaner and as a way to meet kiwi's in order to improve her English and learn more about NZ.
There she meets Ned (Peter Hayden), a retired accountant who has recently lost his wife to cancer. Eventually Natasha becomes his house cleaner and then boarder and then the evitable happens. But not before a lot of ups and downs occur between the two with help, and sometimes hindrance, from other members of the dance class.
These include Coral (Jane Waddell), desperately seeking a man, golfing mates and best buddies Janet (Catherine Downes) and Laura (Donna Akersten) and U3A (University of the Third Age) devotees Bev (Carmel McGlone) with her subservient husband Ray (Tim Gordon). Sebastian (Matthew Pike), Coral's latest catch off Facebook, also makes a brief appearance at one of the dance classes.
With numerous Hall one liners and astute observations, but not all of them funny, the strong cast under Ross Jolly's assured and meticulous direction, pull out all the stops to bring the play to life.
Age appears to be no barrier for this group of actors as they kick their heels up through a dozen or so dance routines, albeit some very short, expertly choreographed by Sacha Copland. And it is obvious that the cast enjoy playing their roles as much as the audience enjoys watching them.
In the role of Natasha, Elena Stejko is excellent, her poise and self-confidence a joy to watch as she navigates the characters ever changing emotional states.
Just as convincing in a brilliantly executed role is Peter Hayden as Ned, his warmth and humanity totally believable as he tries to deal with the effervescent Natasha.
And while the rest of the cast are just as good mention must be made of Tim Gordon as Ray. He never says a word through the entire play but the role of a hen pecked husband has never been portrayed as well as Gordon does, making this one of many gems in this excellent and entertaining production of another Roger Hall masterpiece.
Scoop Review: A Shortcut to Happiness
Reviewed by Sharon Ellis, 16 April 2012
A Shortcut to Happiness at Circa is a light laughing romantic romp with wonderful dancing, well-chosen recorded music and eight attractive characters.
Natasha is a Russian migrant to New Zealand. Her English is not good and she cannot teach music as she was trained to do so finds work as a house cleaner. The play starts with her getting ready to teach a folk dancing class. It is a Saturday night and she is competing with a rugby match. The first arrival is Ned a kindly retired widower who gives some advice on better timing, better advertising, and shrewd pricing. Held on a weeknight with a special price for holders of the SuperGold the dancing class takes off and Roger Hall shas a play for us.
The SuperGold card holders include three women in search of men. There is tryhard lonely Coral who is getting desperate but making the best of it. Married matchmaker Janet looking for a new man for her recently widowed friend Laura. And then there is a retired couple, they have each other and are in pursuit of new horizons, folk dancing, is just one of their current interests.
Possibly A Shortcut to Happiness is the best Hall play yet, not because the customary vacant clichéd one liners are getting better, not because the smart-arse swipes at local mores hit their targets with more punch, and not because there is greater skill in the use of that good old four letter word that brings the guaranteed instant laugh. Be assured those features are there, the afficionados would not stand for subtle wit or anarchic farce. But it is very nearly a play of substance and it is certainly carried along by a clever idea. The theme is as light as a pas de chat, the romance is an Essie Summers bagatelle and as a shortcut to happiness it hits the mark.
It’s the dancing that stars. Choreographer Sacha Copland makes miracles with a cast who until now have not been known for their nimbleness on their toes. The dancing is wonderful and they all do it.
As Natasha, Elena Stejko is delicious, and so she should be, the publicity tells us the part was written with research input from her. She glitters and sparkles like an exotic pin up. Ray is besotted, Ned knows she is beyond his reach and Sebastian has his selfish way with her.
Peter Hayden’s Ned is just right. He is twinkly, warm, loveable and true to the recently retired, recently widowed chap as written. He creates a core of secure believability.
The trio of hunters Jane Waddell, Catherine Downes and Donna Akersten were good on the dancing business but much was demanded of them. Without witty pithy words to help they failed to spark off each other. It was almost curtain call before a tiny hint of Akersten wickedness peeped through.
Carmel McGlone nearly steals the show. She creates a Bev who is pure McGlone magic. She dances with a wild abandoned gawky verve and it must be said with considerable skill and she stalks flounces and flutters her sweet submissive silent husband back and forth across the stage in her own ambitiously independent way. Bev and Ray don’t actually make it to the inner circle until the vodka and samovar at the end and what an entry they make.
The two scene set uses a revolve to strong effect moving backwards and forwards between a bleak church hall and Ned’s cleaned and tidied and ever so tasteful apartment. Surely Ned would have better taste in art and surely a dealer gallery would lend Circa some more satisfactory piece for this sensitive man about town to live with.
Circa says of itself that it maintains a connection between artists and audience. It does this and more in creating a welcoming friendly place to meet, pick up tickets and get into the mood. Saturday evening at Circa is indeed a shortcut to happiness.