Glide Time at Maidment Theatre

Glide Time at Maidment Theatre

Glide Time at Maidment Theatre
June 19, 2006, source: NZ Herald
Reviewed by Paul Simei-Barton

Thirty years after its debut, the show that launched the Roger Hall industry has resurfaced, glistening with vitality, humour and mischievous charm.

Glide Time takes us back to the 70s – a strangely innocent era when walk shorts and other fashion crimes went unnoticed and political correctness had yet to insinuate itself into the public service.

The play is an incisive satire on the absurdities of an ossified bureaucracy and it perfectly captures the mindset that inspired Roger Douglas’ reforms in the 1980s.

But an audience that has experienced Telecom and privatised power companies is unlikely to be outraged by the inefficiencies that are exposed in Hall’s vision of an old-style government department.

The play’s enduring appeal stems less from its political satire than from its brilliant characterisations.

The Government Stores Department is populated with an intriguing group of characters whose lives have been defined and diminished by their meaningless employment.

They are all recognisable Kiwi types but each is drawn with a sensitivity that transcends stereotypes.

The superb cast clearly relishes the opportunity to interpret such well rounded characters.

Simon Prast gives an engaging performance as the long-suffering Welshman and Theresa Healey provides a breath of fresh air as the relentlessly cheerful Beryl. Colin Moy brings a wonderfully manic quality to the janitor, Wally, while Stuart Devenie plays the boss with a patrician aloofness – his long, open-mouthed pauses are as eloquent as any speech.

The most engaging drama centres on Jim – a hard case bigot who is probably Roger Hall’s finest creation. Greg Johnson’s performance exposes the crudity of the character while expressing the pathos of a bloke whose careful concealed mid-life crisis explodes in an ineffectual but deeply moving gesture of rebellion.

David Van Horn’s portrayal of the office junior is particularly revealing.

His earnest enthusiasm is inexorably corroded by the cynicism of the office environment and his transformation into the mirror image of his senior colleagues is a marvellously poignant device.

The production presents a rather conventional staging of the play which is surprising given Silo’s reputation for edginess. Glide Time is certainly robust enough to withstand all manner of re-interpretation.

John Verryt’s set hints at the possibility of an absurdist reading but his towering Kafkaesque columns of filing cabinets are anchored to a naturalistic office space.

Oliver Driver’s direction shows a similar ambivalence – Craig Parker, as the office smart alec, is encouraged to throw himself into flourishes of pure theatricality but the production always settles back into the comic realism that is Roger Hall’s natural habitat.

It is not difficult to imagine that Glide Time will look just as good in another 30 years and this production offers a fitting tribute to one of New Zealand theatre’s finest moments.