CLEVER PSYCHOLOGY WITHIN HIGH ENTERTAINMENT
THE MOTOR CAMP
by Dave Armstrong, based on a story by Danny Mulheron
directed by Ross Jolly
at Centrepoint, Palmerston North
From 3 Nov 2012 to 15 Dec 2012
Reviewed by John Ross, 5 Nov 2012
Being greeted with several loud bangs, from seasonal fireworks, on coming out of the theatre on the opening night, was happily apt, since this comedy does end with a bang, indeed more than one – pun intended, fortunately not in all senses onstage.
Clearly it's a show for the not-easily-shocked, who are ready to laugh at boundary-violations, within a milieu where it is already shamingly uncool for a fifteen-year-old girl to be exposed as a virgin. And the play is indeed often laugh-out-loud funny, yet also has passages with serious bite.
Embarking on a motor camp holiday means, more so than usual, living in public, where you can't choose your company, nor your camp manager either (he is, in this case, not seen, but clearly a fusser, over-fond of using his public-address system).
First arrivals on stage, Frank and Jude Redmond, look like your standard-issue pakeha professional middle class couple, though they turn out to have issues of their own. The people in the next-door caravan, Mike and his Maori wife Dawn, when they turn up, look like a loudmouth, middle-aged hoon Pakeha tradesman and his wife, equally pushy, flamboyant and brassy. Their love-making on the first evening is not merely high-decibel but so strenuous they nearly rupture their caravan.
Can their son Jared be trusted as company for the Redmonds' precious daughter Emily? Especially, but let's not admit it's an issue, since he is Dawn Tairoa's son, and only Mike's stepson? Again, things, and characters, are more complex and nuanced than at first they seem. There are plenty of clever situation twists and twisty bits of dialogue that make you sit up.
Greg Johnson, as one might hope for from so gifted an actor, delivers a masterful rendition of the character Mike Hislop, more humanly interesting and far smarter than he first looks, though finally less smart than his wife Dawn. Played by Raquel Sims, she is convincingly shown as having more depths than you'd expect. Nathan Mudge as their son Jared likewise makes good value of the opportunities given.
Christopher Brougham as Frank Redmond has, finally, the most challenging role, driven, and turning quite nasty when he seriously loses his cool, yet ultimately once again sympathetic. Danielle Mason, as Jude, is given some great situations to work with and carries them assuredly. Lucy Lever, as their daughter Holly, is capable and always pleasingly watchable.
Ross Jolly's directing is impeccable, drawing out these fine performances, maintaining wonderful timing throughout and making everything work seamlessly.
John Hodgkins' set seems inevitably right, with its two caravan-sides, a picnic table down-stage centre, and enough up-stage to indicate an offstage beach, all reinforced by Phillip Dexter's lighting.
Pre-Christmas shows need to have high entertainment value, which this absolutely has, plus quite a bit of clever psychology as well.
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