Last Legs

Last Legs, premiering at , is a Roger Hall production and will appeal to fans of his work.

It is set in an upmarket Auckland rest home, called The Cambridge. It has a clever well designed set with four balconies where various residents can sit and talk, plus a common area in front of them.

You first meet Trish played by Donna Akersten. A member of the Residents’ Committee and former real estate agent. She likes to think she is the top dog around there, plus she is very keen to earn money from refferals. Her past as a real estate agent is very believable as she retains a keen focus on commissions and somewhat fake camaraderie.

Her husband Garry, played by Stephen Gledhill is also a former real estate agent, and on the Residents’ Committee. They seem very well matched, as they over-share details of how they got together using empty homes they were selling.

Also well established in the rest home is Edna (Jane Waddell), a lefty greenie cancer survivor with a strong streak of anti-establishment-ism which brings her into conflict with Trish and Garry. She bounces from one cause to another, while also having some poignant moments around her health.

The other established resident is the sex siren Kitty. A former actress who is not really retired, more installed there by her lover who recently died. She is a free spirit, and enjoys attracting the men – to a point.

The final two cast members are husband and wife Angus and Helena. Angus, played by Ray Henwood, is a retired professor and Helena (Catherine Downes) is his younger wife, an art snob. He did not want to move here, but she insisted as he is becoming more frail. She resents having moved in at a relatively young age herself. But she says this is what happens when a student sleeps with her lecturer then marries him.

Part of the play focuses on the banal yet funny tensions between the residents in arranging events for the rest home. The more interesting part is when you learn that Angus and Kitty once had an affair – something unknown to everyone else.

The play is somewhat unusual in that most (my estimate) of the dialogue is between characters and the audience (we are prospective tenants) explaining back stories, rather than between the characters themselves. It was a useful technique to set the scene, but I think it was somewhat overdone.

As with all Roger Hall plays, it was funny and enjoyable. But it wasn’t one of his best productions. There were no side splitting moments, and the plot developments were fairly predictable.

Possibly it was the decision to have no particularly sympathetic characters that had an impact. The real estate agents are ghastly, as is the art snob wife. The activist is annoying, with touches of humour. The professor and his former paramour are more sympathetic but not overly loveable. It could have benefited perhaps with a couple more characters, whom the audience could get behind.

Rating – *** (out of five)