Decades of successful playwriting have been recognised with a knighthood for Roger Hall:
He has delivered dozens of hit plays and just received a knighthood, but Sir Roger Hall says there’s no secret formula but “putting your bum on the chair in the morning and working hard”. . .
He paid tribute to his wife’s support throughout his career for theatre and television, especially before he made his name with sold out public service satire Glide Time in 1976.
“She’s been a very loyal supporter for all those years when I was struggling to be a writer and make myself known. When I was teaching, I came home one day, and she was sitting at home with a baby in her arms and I said, ‘I’m sorry, I want to give up teaching and go writing full-time.’ And she said, ‘Well, that’s what you better do,’ which was a brave decision.”
He followed up his debut play with a string of other hits featuring middle-class “everyman” New Zealanders, including Middle-Age Spread, which played in London’s West End for 15 months. It was also made into a film, with American magazine Variety describing the star, Grant Tilly, as an “Antipodean Woody Allen”.
Several of his works were successfully adapted for the small screen (Gliding On, Neighbourhood Watch, Conjugal Rites, Market Forces) and he won a script-writing award for his work on Spin Doctors.
He organised the first New Zealand Writers’ Week and successfully campaigned for the introduction of New Zealand Theatre Month, which was held for the first time in September 2018.
All this from a man who sailed from England to New Zealand at 19.
“I owe everything to New Zealand, really. It gave me a good university education and it got me away from the class system and it gave me a feeling I could do anything here if I wanted it.”
The late great comedian John Clarke once described Sir Roger’s work as “identifying faults and follies which highlight small monsters in ordinary people, and sometimes excite our sympathy as much as our laughter”.
“John is a very shrewd observer and I was very flattered to get that comment. That sort of comedy has always appealed to me, the mixture of funny and sad.” . .
I saw Glide Time at Dunedin’s Fortune Theatre and have been to almost every other play Hall has written since.
In each of them I remember thinking I’ve heard conversations like that, and then thinking I’ve had conversations like that.
This is one of the secrets of his success – an extraordinary ability to write about ordinary people in a relatable and entertaining way.
The full Honours List is here.