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Print Version

by Dave Armstrong
directed by Danny Mulheron
Producer: Howard Taylor

at Circa One (return season), Wellington
From 18 Jan 2014 to 15 Feb 2014

Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 20 Jan 2014
originally published in The Dominion Post

Kings of the Gym makes a welcome return almost a year to the day after its premiere. On both occasions it was received with cheers and loud applause as the excellent cast of Paul McLaughlin, Richard Dey, Ginette McDonald and Acushla-Tara Sutton took their curtain calls.

I can't detect any major changes to the script or the production. No doubt some were made (the Black Cap's test scores?) but I was still laughing at the barbed jokes and situations as Laurie Connor battles the forces of the politically correct education policies enshrined in NCEA and incompetently administered by the Principal, who in Ginette McDonald's performance seems to have developed a penguin-like walk since a year ago.

He also battles with the idealism of the young as represented by the high achiever but naïve Silver Fern netball star, Annie, who, as a teacher trainee, ends up in the P.E. Department of Hautapu High School (Decile 2).

I praised the realism of the setting of the run-down gymnasium last year but on Saturday a friend at the interval mentioned that there was one thing missing from this “little man-cave” to use Dave Armstrong's description. What was missing, she suggested, was the smell that such spaces emit.

Thankfully, director Danny Mulheron didn't add smell to the production but I suspect he had a lot to do with some of the small comic touches that either I had forgotten or totally missed first time round.

The back of an office chair falls off as the Principal attempts to sit on it; Laurie enters wearing clip-on sunglasses, he flips them up and for the rest of the scene he looks like Mickey Mouse; the tricky comic dance steps as the two men re-enact Annie's winning goal for the Silver Ferns.

The play has at its core a serious intent which challenges its audiences concerning tolerance of other people's beliefs. This is made explicit in the second half and which is neatly bundled up into a happy ending in which everyone is discovered to be on the side of the angels. Unfortunately life's not like that.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.

See also reviews by:
 Fiona McNamara
 John Smythe
 Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);
 Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);