Simon Boyes at Kapiti Playhouse

Simon Boyes is directing Kapiti Playhouse’s forthcoming production of Happy Birthday Dear Alice by Bernard Farrell. Why is this Wellingtonian willing to spend the next two and a half months travelling three times a week to Paraparaumu?

In a recent interview with Simon he told me that about twenty years ago he lived in Waikanae and performed at Kapiti Playhouse. Since then he has maintained contact with the group and keeps coming back to direct various plays. Simon likes working with this group, it has a nice family feel, a provincial approach, yet with a purpose built theatre. He considers that the audiences on the Coast support Kapiti Playhouse loyally as a community theatre, especially compared to Wellington where they tend to attend plays as a one-off experience.

Simon has directed four plays at Kapiti since 1994, with the last one in 2008 being Roger Hall’s “Who Wants to be 100?” He does not have any theatre commitments in Wellington this year so took the opportunity to suggest this Irish comedy by Bernard Farrell to the Kapiti Playhouse. Eight years ago a friend gave him Happy Birthday Dear Alice to read. Simon really liked it then and recent personal circumstances led him to understand more clearly Alice’s situation. It could also appeal to a lot of Kapiti-based residents.

The play explores the dilemma faced by ageing widow Alice as she tries to meet the demands of her selfish children, who want to put the reluctant Alice into an old peoples’ home. This is a two-act comedy set in the kitchen of Alice’s home. In Act One we celebrate Alice’s seventieth birthday and in Act Two we celebrate her seventy-first. Due to a tragic accident, Alice was widowed at an early age and left to raise a son, Barry, and a daughter Barbara, on her own. Barbara now lives in San Francisco with her husband Cormac and Barry lives in England with his new girlfriend, Sandy, while Alice lives alone except for the company of Jimmy, her neighbour for many years. Her children return each year to “celebrate” her birthday and present Alice with plans to place her in an old peoples’ home. However, they have not counted on her determination not to go through with their scheme. Irish playwright Bernard Farrell has given us an excellent play with lots of laughs and one that all the Alices of this world can certainly relate to.

Happy Birthday Dear Alice by Bernard Farrell, directed by Simon Boyes, will be performed at the Kapiti Playhouse from 2 to 12 April 2014.

– Julia Tait