Auckland's Herald Theatre is set to be transformed into a 1980s TVNZ studio for Silo's production of Hudson & Halls Live. The show aims to shed light on the unparallelled lives and relationship between iconic TV personalities Peter Hudson (played by Todd Emerson) and David Halls (Chris Parker) that will entertain both long-time fans of the pair as well as those who know less about them. We asked director and co-creator Kip Chapman about what we can expect from the play.
How are rehearsals going?
We’re at a really critical point – we’re at the end of the show and we’re working through all the logistics of where the food goes and what it is. The show’s got to look chaotic but we need to know how it works every night. It’s an absolute mind… puzzle. We have to get things wrong as well: Hudson & Halls in real life made lots of mistakes so we have to as well, but that means we have to make mistakes correctly. It’s really complicated. It’s the most props a Silo Theatre show’s ever used, we’re up to about 270 props at the moment. Some of them are ingredients and some of them are fake. It’s really fun but so complicated.
How much of the show is improvised?
We started to use some real food in the weekend and the guys really started to improvise with it. It was quite amazing – because it’s real some crazy things start to happen. Todd was tossing some salt over his shoulder and he got it straight in Chris’ eye – Chris was walking around blinded.
How did this idea for a show come about, at this particular time?
I’ve made theatre for years and I try to make immersive or interactive theatre shows – shows that aren’t boring basically, really exciting theatre. My partner Todd [Emerson] is an actor, but he’s also a professionally trained chef and he was talking Rima Te Waita and she was telling Todd about Hudson and Halls. He said, ‘This sounds incredible, why hasn’t anyone done a show about these guys?’ And Rima says, ‘You should do it.’ I just thought it was a fantastic idea because I could see the theatrical possibilities for it and within a day we nutted out what the show was going to be like. We’re friends with Sophie [Roberts] who runs Silo and the relationship went from there.
It would be easy enough to reenact an episode and have that be hilarious, but what do you feel your production adds to their story?
It lets the audience in on the feeling of what Hudson and Halls' relationship was like. These guys loved each other passionately and lived life how I think we all actually deep down want to live it. They were so alive in every single thing that that they did. The audience are going to get a window in to how crazy these guys’ lives were. Hopefully you’ll get wrapped up in that feeling of chaos, of love, of real fun and quite a lot of bickering. And a lot of drinking.
So when Todd came to you with the idea was he always the obvious choice to play Hudson? How did you go about casting the two roles?
Yeah, well of course he had first dibs on the part: as a trained chef and an actor there aren’t too many people who could do this – we’re actually cooking live in stage so it’s quite complicated. Todd’s been made up a few times for photoshoots and – surprisingly and worryingly – my partner looks a lot like a 55-year-old from the ‘80s. He looks absolutely incredible as Peter Hudson… I think worrying would be the word. Chris Parker, in my opinion, is one of the country’s best improvisers. He’s very funny. David Halls was one of the most unique people I've ever seen and Chris has the ability to capture David’s energy, his wit, his charm – he’s absolutely the right person for the role.
What was the research process for the show?
We got hold of everything TVNZ had in their archive and we talked to so many people – a lot of people have come out of the woodwork. That’s one of the thing’s we’re really looking forward to during the season: since it’s been released so many people have contacted us telling us their story. We’ve tried to incorporate these people’s opinions about what their energies were like. Rima Te Wiata used to work with them as a waitress, apparently she was Auckland’s worst waitress. They had this shtick where she’d just be terrible as a waitress and they’d just abuse her from the kitchen and people would love it – they’d go to the restaurant for that. They’d go to the restaurant to hear Peter and David bickering in the kitchen.
How do you think audience who haven’t seen the TV show or didn’t previously know of Hudson and Halls will respond to it compared to people who are familiar with them?
This is a really tricky thing. I try to make theatre shows that are extremely accessible and are really fun – that’s all I want to do. So if you don’t know anything about Hudson and Halls you’re still going to have an absolutely amazing time. At the start of the show, we give the audience all the information that they’ll need to know about Peter and David. So you certainly don’t need to know anything about them to have a great time at our show. I'd recommend that people go on to the NZ on Screen website – there’s a fantastic documentary and an episode of the show that are available for free. That episode is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. If you’ve got the time and you want to, I’d recommend learning more about them.
I’m sure people will come away from the show wanting to know more about them as well.
I’ve got a show, Apollo 13: Mission Control, which is an interactive theatre experience that we’ve toured around the world. With that we decided our job wasn’t to teach people how to launch a rocket into space; our job was to inspire people about rocketry, space and all the moon missions that N.A.S.A did. If people went away wanting to learn more about those things, that’s how we knew we’d done our job correctly. I think it’s the same with this: our job isn’t to give you the Wikipedia lesson on who Peter and David were, our job is to let you feel what their relationship was like.
Are there any celebrity chefs or entertainers who you’d think of as comparable to them today?
No, because what was incredible about these guys is that they were 100% authentic. They weren’t a pre-packaged New Zealand Idol rubbish product that was completely devoid of any danger, these guys were just themselves on screen. You do not see that on screen anymore. That’s what makes them still incredible to watch today – you wouldn’t be able to do television like that anymore. The television they were making then is better than it is now.
What's been the biggest challenge in directing the show?
I think we’re actually at that crunch point right at the moment – it’s the logistics. It’s the idea of having the most props I’ve ever used in a play and making it look absolutely effortless. It’s a real dance. We started using the live elements on Saturday and there’s something incredible about watching people live cooking, under pressure, in front of 200 people every night. It’s amazing to watch. I try to create really theatrical experiences for the audience and this is definitely right up there, in terms of the magic of what theatre can do.
INSIDE THE REHEARSAL ROOM with Todd Emerson and Chris Parker.Made with our friends Votre Arme.#SiloHudsonHallsPosted by Silo Theatre on Monday, 26 October 2015
Hudson & Halls plays at the Herald Theatre from the 5th of November to the 5th of December. You can find out more and buy tickets from Silo Theatre's website.