A prolific and successful playwright, Roger Hall QNZM QSO has consistently written for the stage, alongside scriptwriting for film and television. Hall’s writing is known for its comedy, political and social purpose, and underlying pathos. His plays have toured widely and have been performed at international venues. Hall has been honoured with numerous awards and titles for his contribution to performing arts, including a New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal, a Scroll of Honour from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand, and the 2015 Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement.
Place of Residence: Auckland
Roger Hall has enjoyed continued success, receiving various awards for his contributions to theatre and television. He has also served on many arts boards and organisations including the Literary Fund Advisory Committee, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Fortune Theatre Board, Frank Sargeson Trust, Janet Frame Eden Street Trust, and the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.
Hall’s television repertoire includes documentaries, drama and one-off plays. Hall co-wrote In View of the Circumstances with Joe Musaphia. The programme was one of the country's earliest sketch shows, winning a Feltex Award, now part of the Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards, for best programme.
Hall's early television work was not limited to comedy, appearing in interviews on women's show On Camera; writing an episode for small-town drama Pukemanu; and presenting and writing the well-reviewed documentary, Obesity.
1973's Clean-Up was a one-off television play featuring an office cleaner who secretly writes a novel. Hall also wrote three one-off plays for the NZBC 1974 Spotlight series – The Bach, The Reward, and Some People Get all the Luck. All were nominated for Feltex awards. Hall was also awarded an arts council grant to study television screenwriting overseas. He also contributed to The Dream Factory for BBC Radio in 1992.
Later in his career, Hall took on the role of scriptwriter for the popular television series, Spin Doctors - a topical, fast turnaround political satire for which he was awarded 2003 Best Script for Comedy at the AFTA NZ Television Awards, now part of the Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards The series ran 2001-2003.
Hall enjoyed continued success as a playwright, winning the 1979 Comedy of the Year, Society of West End Theatres (London), for Middle Age Spread. He was also selected for the 1982 Fulbright Travel Fellowship to the United States.
Hall was also awarded the 1987 Turnovsky Prize for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts and was honoured as Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) for Community Service in 1987.
Hall was awarded a New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal.
Market Forces: Episode 4 won the 1998 Best Script for Comedy at the TV Guide Television Awards, now part of the Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards.
Before the turn of the century, Hall wrote three further plays; Dynamite (1996), The Book Club (1999) and You Gotta Be Joking! (1999). He also wrote autobiography, Bums on Seats (Penguin, 1998).
A Way of Life and Take A Chance on Me were both performed in 2001. Take A Chance on Me was described by Madelaine Empson for Regional News as ‘truly timeless in the tales it tells, and in its ability to capture human emotion with authenticity.’
Hall was awarded a 2002 Toastmaster International Communicator and Leadership Award and in 2003 was honoured as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for his services as a playwright.
Roger Hall was a Visiting Fulbright Professor at Georgetown University, Washington, DC in 2003.
Taking Off (2004) saw Hall’s success continue, as a review for The Canterbury Star reflected on the characters as ‘credible, they are familiar, and as usual from Roger Hall, they are quintessentially us, capturing our quirks, our nature, and our special relationship with the old country’.
Spreading Out was released in 2004, for which Emily Braunstein in Salient reflected on both Hall’s writing and Ross Jolly’s directing – ‘Of course, while Hall’s script is excellent, material like this needs a delicate directorial touch. Too heavy, and it will sound laboured and soap-boxy. Too light, and the message will not come through. Pre-eminent New Zealand director Ross Jolly handles this perfectly. The characters are rounded and human, profound statements timed so that they allow the audience to register them, but still sound conversationally apt.’
In 2005, Hall arranged for a scene from Bruce Mason's one-man play The End of the Golden Weather to be performed on Takapuna Beach on Christmas Day, which has now become an established tradition with up to 500 people attending the event. OXFAM benefits from the event’s collection. In 2016, actor Stephen Lovatt’s daughter, Belinda Robinson, took over the event in 2016.
Hall turned his hand once again at retellings of traditional fairy tales, with Aladdin (2006) and Jack and The Beanstalk (2007). David Farrar for Kiwiblog said of Aladdin, ‘The play was non-stop laughs, and great audience interaction […] Definitely highly recommended as a fun show, for old and young.’ Ewen Coleman for the Dominion Post wrote, ‘Choreography, catchy songs and topical comedy references combine for excellent entertainment in Circa Theatre's Jack and the Beanstalk.’
The pantomime Red Riding Hood (2008) was reviewed by Barbara Frame for Otago Daily Times – ‘the storyline, recognisable characters, over-the-top costumes and silly songs provide plenty to keep kids laughing, while in traditional pantomime fashion innuendoes of a more adult kind, and topical allusions, fly over their heads to keep the older folks thoroughly entertained.’
Hall wrote two plays in 2007, Who Wants to be a Hundred? (Anyone who's 99) and Who Needs Sleep Anyway? John Smythe for Theatreview said of Who Needs Sleep Anyway?, ‘while at first glance the show might seem light and fluffy, it has potency because it is rooted in deep respect, understanding and compassion for those who have lived - or are living - the experience of parenthood, and for the century-old society that has done so much to help out.’
Two further plays were released in 2009, Dick Whittington and His Cat and Four Flat Whites in Italy. Four Flat Whites in Italy ran for an unprecedented 71 shows over ten weeks at The Court in Christchurch, and was reviewed by Paul Simei-Barton for NZ Herald – ‘with witty dialogue, sardonic asides, sharply drawn characters and moments of poignancy, Hall delivers a perceptive report on the current state of the national psyche - with our anxieties and obsessions laid bare in the unfulfilled yearnings of a quartet of senior citizens representing the opposite ends of the middle-class social spectrum.’
In 2011, Hall was awarded two Lifetime Achievement Awards – one at the Hackmann Awards, Auckland, and another at the Dunedin Theatre Awards.
A Shortcut to Happiness was released the same year, described by the Auckland Theatre Company – ‘Roger Hall is back to delight us once again. There is a clash of cultures and prejudices as a group of laid back North Shore retirees confront the strict discipline of a Russian folk dancing class. This is classic Hall - incisive, funny and full of compassion.’
Packed with laughter and tinged with tears, You Can Always Hand Them Back! – with songs by British composer, Peter Skellern – was released in 2012 and described by the Auckland Theatre Company as ‘a vintage Kiwicomedy with a heart of gold that no grandparent will want to miss and no would-be grandparent should.’
In 2014 Hall was presented a Scroll of Honour from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand for a lifetime of excellence in the performing arts.
Barbara Frame for Otago Daily Times said of Book Ends (2014), 'What there is, for the audience, is delight – shelf-loads of it. Each of the very different characters is highly believable, even recognisable, and the actors, mostly veterans of Hall plays, present them superbly.'
Roger Hall’s The Theatre Writer’s Guide was revised and re-published by Playmarket in 2016 as Best Playwriting Book Ever.
Hall received a 2015 Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement.
In 2016, forty years on from the production of Glide Time, Hall wrote Last Legs. Set in an upmarket retirement home, well-to-do seniors in Hall’s play indulge in greed, jealousy, love and lust; alongside gossip, backstabbing and scandal. It played to packed houses and, following Glide Time, had to have a return season.
Last updated December 2016
- Interview with Roger Hall for Christchurch City Libraries
- Roger Hall's profile on New Zealand on Screen
- Interview with Roger Hall on Radio New Zealand
- Review of You Can Always hand them Back by Theatre Scene
- Article on Glide Time in The New Zealand Post
- Interview with Roger Hall on Radio New Zealand