A Shortcut to Happiness

Shortcut to Happiness Therry Theatre 2024Therry Theatre. Arts Theatre. 11 Apr 2024


Playwright Roger Hall has been knighted for his contributions to theatre. He is the pride of New Zealand with a wealth of works under his belt including Four Flat Whites In Italy, an absolute charmer of a light comedy which was a huge hit for Therry at this time last year.


A Shortcut to Happiness is also a light comedy, but a much more complex challenge for director Kerrin White even with a cast of eight senior Adelaide actors. It is all about folk dancing and how good this activity is for the soul, especially the lost soul. Hence, it is a production which also leans heavily on a choreographer, in this case Therry's stalwart Rose Vallen.


As the adapted story goes, Ned is an Adelaide widower and retiree who joins a folk dancing class. It is run by Natasha, a highly-strung Russian woman struggling to make a living. Gradually she builds up a regular class of odd bods: three old girls on the hunt for a man and a spectacularly boring old couple of habitual class joiners. The ups and downs of all their lives are revealed between bursts of beginners’ Russian folk dancing.


Ned is a nice fellow, the script would have us believe. And there are few nicer men on the Adelaide stage than Lindsay Dunn. He’s a reliable character actor and here he builds a nice reliable character, albeit a bland sort of chap. Shelley Crooks is no mad Russian arts aficionado but she’s an all-rounder who can do a decent Russian accent and even unaccompanied a decent Russian song. Julie Quick and Deborah Walsh have a fine track record as seasoned Adelaide actors, with Gigi Jeffers more recently. They three play the comical old gals on the man hunt. Sue Wylie is something of a legend on the Adelaide stage and here she’s partnered in mute but wittily-observed obeisance by Greg Janzow.  Last, in the list of our old luvvies, is Frank Cwiertniak who just gets better with the years. In this play, he’s the big excitement as the handsome “prey” the libidinous old gals haul in.

The Don Oswald/Kerrin White set slices the stage with Ned’s fusty home on one side and the church hall dance studio on the other. The latter, complete with notice board and serving window, is the more effective.


Therein the dancing class takes place and, with eight gloriously inept dancers, it is a bit of heels-up fun.  The music comes and goes, stops and starts and its cues are appropriately confusing, seemingly coming either from nowhere or from Natasha’s phone tucked into her decolletage. While the music is loud, some of the delivery is less so and there was considerable audience grumbling at interval. More projection, please, cast. There are more sticks than stilettos in the auditorium at Therry shows these days. 


A Shortcut to Happiness is not Therry’s greatest production nor is it Hall's greatest play. It’s a bit of multicultural romantic fluff with a seniors bent. But there are guffaws and giggles and the opening night audience was right on side.  So, give it a go.


Samela Harris


When: 11 to 20 Apr

Where: Arts Theatre

Bookings: trybooking.com