Direction: Kip Chapman (written by Kip Chapman w/ Todd Emerson & Sophie Roberts
Hannah Playhouse (November 17 – December 10)
Silo Theatre’s hit Hudson & Halls Live! arrives in Wellington and thanks to the charm, skill and commitment of its two leads (Kip Chapman buttoning down Peter Hudson, Chris Parker in ham-heaven as David Halls) and superb support from Anya Tate-Manning (playing earnest and slightly star-struck floor manager Ngaire Watkins) it’s a flaming triumph! Resplendent as any fondant the camp couple of cookers ever served, this is a fine tribute to Golden Kiwi TV chefs and given the lively performances I’m sure it would succeed even with audiences barely aware of the real Hudson & Halls.
The premise is smart, we’re in the show – the audience there as live-audience for a live TV show; a Christmas special as the flustered (Hudson) and flamboyant (Halls) chefs attempt to put together a holiday-season menu while only just hiding their smitten love for one another.
Hudson & Halls was one of New Zealand’s bizarre and wonderful telly triumphs across the last 1970s and early 1980s. I remember it – just. A highlight of late nights up when mum and dad would gather with friends to laugh at and marvel at the food and hosts – in equal measures.
Here Chapman deserves the biggest tick of course as writer, director and actor – an absolute tour-de-force, he even stays on stage and in-character throughout the intermission. Parker delights in playing the far more overtly camp David Halls – he’s quick with a line and both actors manage to incorporate some very clever improv along with the prepared lines – Just as the real-life characters they’re portraying did.
It’s a sincere farce – all at once joyfully absurd and then a lovingly rendered portrait, of both the couple and the work they did as well as the era.
The foil for much of this – working between the audience and the stars of the show – is Ngaire Watkins. She breaks theatre’s thin-curtain of fourth-wall to lead the audience into the performance, to escort through intermission and has her own star-turn during the actual show.
To give away anything more would be to ruin the comic and dramatic effect of this performance.
I haven’t laughed this much during live theatre – just about ever…
And I was wiping away a tear, for nostalgia’s sake, when the show hurtled up to its conclusion.
I’ve thought about the performances for days – mesmerising and emphatic, superbly skilled. Hudson & Halls Live! deserves to tour the country, it’s a remarkable celebration of that era – the set a perfect recreation from the TV show – it’s also not just a loving tribute it’s a brilliant comedy for the uninitiated, I’m sure.