Witty Glide Through Simpler Times
Reviewed by Kate Ward-Smythe
June 16, 2006, source: theatreview.co.nz
The Silo Theatre appears to have another triumph on its hands. Glide Time opened to a packed Maidment Theatre, showing not only does this iconic New Zealand play stand the test of time, in the innovative hands of the Silo team, it is compulsive viewing of some less glamorous aspects of our social history.
Many people have eagerly anticipated the curtain-up on Glide Time, due in part to the fact the Silo, and director Oliver Driver, have attracted such a stellar cast to create this 30th anniversary (of the play) production.
When the curtain finally does reveal all (in the traditional manner – nice touch), John Verryt’s overwhelming set looms over us: dozens and dozens of authentic 1970’s filing-cabinets, jam-packed from floor to ceiling, each one bulging and threatening to unleash an endless stream of paper – the bricks and mortar of the public service. The statement was so immediate and satisfying, the audience broke into spontaneous applause. We’ve arrived. Government Department, Store Room 133, 1976.
The creative team and production crew have uniformly paid uncompromising homage to this era, with great care taken in all details, such as the various reading material (props by Shelley Watson), the authentic telephone ring, Beryl’s hair, and the beautifully beige costumes (Rachael Walker).
Hall’s seven characters are well crafted and well known, and as their issues emerge, throughout their otherwise dull, routine existence, it is easy to be drawn in. There’s John the tokenist, a role relished by Craig Parker; Hugh, played with compassion and flare by Simon Prast, the would-be-content Welshman in the land of plenty, if it weren’t for his never-content and home-sick wife; Beryl, Teresa Healy at her best, the jolly dear in the corner, who is more active than most give her credit for; Jim the opinionated, institutionalised loud-mouth (Greg Johnson); Michael, the nervy Christian new boy, nicely executed by David Van Horn; Wally the overly officious maintenance man, a great performance by Colin Moy who looks superb in tight shorts and long socks; and the by-the-book Boss, Stuart Devenie.
Driver has cast each role perfectly, and in turn, the cast breathe new life into Glide Time. There are of course many individual stand-out moments: Devenie’s charisma-free farewell speech is magnificent. Parker’s crowning moment would have to be the inflection of the ultimate paper cut, as he commits harakiri with the instruction manual for the calculators imported from Japan. Healey’s expression is highly entertaining every time Beryl copes with the arrival of the morning mail, plus her mild vertigo is a treat. There are plenty of strong ensemble moments as well, such as the well-timed card-signing scene.
Driver has remained faithful to Hall’s original script, capturing the quintessential nothingness of daily routine in the public service. However, this languid pace borders on pedestrian towards the end of the first half. Added to that, some performers took a while to settle, with some dialogue being masked by missed cues; even accents were dropped now and then, making the first half somewhat uneven. No doubt first night jitters.
Glide Time hit its mark from the top of the second. Hall’s writing has always been tidy in its structure and pace. Glide Time shows him at his best, with every storyline mapped out in the first half, neatly coming together by the end, with satisfying pay-off.
In some respects, the Glide Time experience improves with age. The original was contemporary satire. 30 years on, there is a sense of freedom in being able to laugh, gasp and exclaim, at the way we were. Hall lays on the jokes thick and fast, the butt being: immigrants, islanders, single women, fat women, big-breasted women, women… These were simpler times.
But more than being a witty, entertaining play, Glide Time is a delicious retrospective that will leave you both laughing and reminiscing long after you leave the theatre.