REVIEW: Hudson and Halls Live (Silo)

Review by Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth

[Live Culinary Magic]

Having missed the first incarnation of Hudson and Halls Live! we were adamant to see it this time ’round.  We had heard nothing but good things so expectations were very high.

Luckily we can report that after seeing it in the flesh, the show not only delivered on the hype but far exceeded hopes.  The epic timing of the dynamic duo was spot-on.  From the Floor Manager Ngaire Watkins (Anya Tate-Manning) and the Tech Operator/Lighting Designer Mr Lynch (Sean Lynch) to the bickering talent on stage Peter Hudson (Todd Emerson) and David Halls (Chris Parker) – all actors are in their element throughout.  And there isn’t a moment when they step out of character – or for that matter miss a beat.  The acting was nothing short of brilliant.

Hudson and Halls Live! can be described in many ways.  A Madcap 70s comedy, similar to a French farce, a Les Dennis or Kenny Everett Show, a Two RonniesLittle & Large, a Benny Hill and a Hi-de-Hi! to NZ society.

Essentially a food show, beneath the chaos and squabbling, disasters and humour lies a poignant and touching love story.  An unconventional on-screen love story. For the time a necessary hidden and evidently flawed love story. An alcohol driven but beautifully true love story worthy of an African Queen or Casablanca film treatment.

Having watched a gazillion food shows on television over the years it was interesting to see where it all started in New Zealand’s TV history. The insightful writing (Kip Chapman, Todd Emerson and Sophie Roberts) gives the audience a fly-on-the-wall experience of actually being there during a live tape of a TV food show.  And the amazing chemistry between Hudson and Halls gives us goose bumps because of its sheer authenticity.

Daniel Williams’ set is absolutely magnificent and really takes you back in time to the by-gone era of the 1970s.  And Elizabeth Whiting’s costume design, especially for Ngaire (can’t say more because it would be a total spoiler) is fabulous.

In spite of the all-encompassing manic chaos, forming the production’s backbone are Hudson and Halls’ true to life interactions that made them so endearing and such icons of NZ television.  Emerson and Parker totally embody these celebrity chefs with their ad-libbed style, which they have taken to like ducks to water.

In the programme it says “Their unscripted verbal slapstick and riotous, clanging cookery made them a ratings success…”.  It makes you wonder how much of the dialogue and banter is actually true to the script and how much is being made up on the fly.  It almost makes us want to go back a second time to see how similar one show is to another.

The metaphor of cooking food being used to represent what was not legal to say in those times is as meaningful now as when the original Hudson and Halls shows first aired.

Kip Chapman’s direction is what gives the entire show its edge.  Having seen his genius ability to create the amazing audience experience of and one of his most recent successes That Bloody Woman, it’s no surprise that he manages to engage us as audience members for the show’s 90-minute duration.  The laughter, cheering, at times heckling from the audience is all down to how the audience is made to feel an integral part of the production.  The destruction of the 4th wall by making us audience as the audience brings us closer to the action and more empathetic to their trials and tribulations.

We enjoyed the show on so many levels.  One can imagine a tourist, fresh off the plane loving it for its slapstick comedy, or a person who knows Hudson and Halls well to be filled with nostalgia and laughter.

Q Theatre is a fitting venue for this (must become) iconic piece of theatre.  As one suspects the original duo did over 40 years ago, Hudson and Halls Live! touched me very deeply.  And of course the beautiful subtlety of the love story that unfolds on stage leaves all of us laughing with a decided lump in our throats as we file out of the theatre.

We don’t know if art reflects life but in this case we sincerely hope so.

So whether you’re a foodie or not, Hudson and Halls Live! is highly recommended. It might be a trip down memory lane for some but for many of us it was also a fabulously uplifting entertaining night out – don’t miss it, again!

Hudson and Halls Live! plays at Q until 9 July. Details see Silo.

SEE ALSO: Theatre Scenes review of the first season. 

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