Turner Centre, 43 Cobham Road, Kerikeri

07/03/2013 - 07/03/2013

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

08/02/2013 - 02/03/2013

Forum North, Whangarei

09/03/2013 - 09/03/2013

Lake Wanaka Centre, Wanaka

19/04/2013 - 19/04/2013

Queenstown Memorial Hall, Queenstown

17/04/2013 - 17/04/2013

Festival of Colour 2013

Production Details

Dave Armstrong comes in to open for Auckland Theatre Company with his delightfully romantic and wickedly entertaining comedy Kings of the Gym at Maidment Theatre from February , before touring to Kerikeri and Whangarei in March.

Armstrong is now firmly established as New Zealand’s foremost satirical and comedic playwright, with a string of hits to his name including the box-office-record-setting Le Sud, The Tutor, The Motor Camp, Niu Sila (co-written with Oscar Kightley), Radio New Zealand’s Down The List and the TV series Seven Periods With Mr Gormsby and Spin Doctors.

“Armstrong takes delight in completely skewering us… It’s thrilling being in the voyeur’s seat.” – Theatrescenes

“Known for his comic writing which is sophisticated and sharp.” – NBR

It’s the new school term and Hautapu High is set to rocket up Metro’s Best Schools ranking. The only thing standing in the way is a rearguard action led by the old-school, politically incorrect but hugely popular head of the PE department, Laurie O’Connor.

Laurie’s on a collision course with the ambitious new principal, Viv. She can’t stand his work methods or his opinions on education; heaven forbid, he still believes kids should learn that sport is about winning!

Is it the end of an era for his cosy little empire?

Big-hearted, bitingly satirical and laugh-out-loud funny, Kings of the Gym is the perfect summer comedy.

“Kings of the Gym was a terrifically funny play which made for a great night’s entertainment. Dave Armstrong has produced a very New Zealand comedy.” – Kiwiblog

“Dave Armstrong just keeps those comedies coming! Le Sud, The Tutor and The Motor Camp have had us cringing with delight at ourselves and our neighbours. Now Dave turns his brilliant satiric eye on education politics, religion, professional sport and that particular Auckland affliction, ‘Best School Syndrome’,” says Auckland Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Colin McColl.

“The initial idea for Kings of the Gym probably occurred to me in the mid 1970s in the gymnasium of my local secondary school,” says Armstrong.

“I remember back then that most gymnasiums in co-ed schools were like little man-caves – oases of testosterone where the PE teachers, who were usually male, ruled the roost. In their striped tracksuit trousers, with the ever-present whistles around their necks, these teachers would command us to go on long cross-country runs and play all sorts of games, which were highly competitive and very physical. Most of us enjoyed them but heaven help you if you were overweight, bookish or both. Liberal English, drama and art teachers wouldn’t go near the school gymnasium, preferring the coffee plungers, literary magazines and pottery mugs of the staff room.

“Though as a breed, PE teachers seemed to be very different from other teachers, I enjoyed their company immensely. They were almost all uniformly contemptuous of modern, progressive education and perhaps therein lay their appeal. After a day of interactive learning I quite enjoyed playing a highly physical and competitive game of now-forbidden bull-rush in the gym. What interested me is that my liberal teachers, whom I really liked and respected, couldn’t believe that I enjoyed spending time in the company of the ‘Neanderthals’ in the PE department. It was true that these PE teachers could be boorish and insensitive at times, very like Laurie in the play, but I also knew that these kings of the gym really liked kids. And it’s very hard to dislike someone who likes you.

“Kings of the Gym is not really about PE teachers. The gym is merely the setting – that got me thinking about a variety of things. One was that a scummy, dirty gym of a tawdry failing low-decile school would be a really challenging place in which to set a romantic comedy.

“But as well as being a gym rom-com, Kings of the Gym also looks at a number of issues, not just the obvious ones to do with politics and education, but also wider human issues such as tolerance.

“We all think we are tolerant, but real tolerance is another issue altogether. As I was writing this play, a number of social and religious groups such as Destiny Church, Family First and Sensible Sentencing hit the headlines. Some of the members of these groups are highly intolerant, especially of gay rights groups, liberals, prisoners, schoolteachers and judges, to name a few. But I also noticed a growing intolerance amongst people like me to Christians and other conservative groups.

“What would happen if people from these opposing groups found themselves all in the same place, say in a school gymnasium? It was then that I realised that even though only one of the four characters in Kings of the Gym is religious, this play is really about a battle for the soul. Each character seems to want every other character to think like them and believe what they believe – and are all prepared to fight to get their way. I found this battle both intriguing and at times very funny.”

Tickets for Kings of the Gym can be purchased from Maidment Theatre on 308 2383 or, The Turner Centre (Kerikeri) on 09 407 0260 or Forum North (Whangarei) 09 430 4244.

Kings of the Gym
By Dave Armstrong

Auckland: Maidment Theatre, February 8 – March 2
Kerikeri: The Turner Centre, March 7
Whangarei: Forum North, March 9 

Festival of Colour 2013  

Admission:  $38

Click on a time to book here:

Venue: Queenstown Memorial Hall 
Wednesday 17th April: 8:00 PM 

Venue: Lake Wanaka Centre
Friday 19th April: 6:00 PM & 9:30 PM 

John Leigh:  Laurie Connor
Dean O'Gorman:  Pat Kennedy
Cian Elyse White:  Annie Tupua
Bronwyn Bradley:  Viv Cleaver

Creative Team
Rachael Walker:  Set Designer
Sara Taylor:  Costume Designer
Brad Gledhill:  Lighting Designer  

Comedy 10 – Boredom Nil; political correctness on detention

Review by Jo Blick 18th Apr 2013

Drinking during work hours… gambling… skiving off … Welcome to life as a PE teacher at Hautapu High School, the setting for Kings of the Gym: a play that measures up modern teaching methods, political correctness and religion and sends them off for twenty quick laps of the school field. 

Laurie O’Connor is the lazy head of the PE department with a hotline to the TAB, Pat is his former pupil, now co-worker who could be going places but has somehow become stuck. Together they spend their days in the office talking rubbish, complaining about the stupidity of the curriculum and supervising the kids by yelling at them out the window.  

Laurie’s unorthodox style may be popular with the pupils but Principal Viv Cleaver isn’t impressed. She has big plans for the school and when star netballer and student teacher Annie Tupua arrives, things start to change for Laurie and Pat. 

Written by Dave Armstrong, Kings of the Gym may not be subtle but it’s very funny and there are no holds barred in terms of the comedy. I wouldn’t have been the only person who was laughing while simultaneously wondering if I should.

Credit needs to go to the four cast members, who deftly portray characters that in other hands could be offensive or unsympathetic. John Leigh, the master of the double take, finds Laurie’s inherent likeability and hidden sense of purpose. Brett O’Gorman is an able and appealing foil as the loveable Pat while Cian Elyse White‘s Annie is strong and real. Extra house points to Bronwyn Bradley as Principal Viv for offering up a character rather than a pantomime villainess. 

Director Peter Elliot has staged a hugely enjoyable production that works seamlessly. By the end of the period, the score was Comedy 10; Boredom Nil and political correctness had been placed on detention. 


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Shock-Jock sparring in the school gym

Review by Janet McAllister 11th Feb 2013

If you wish Paul Henry were hosting Seven Sharp, and you like watching 7 Days and Two and a Half Men, then this might be the play to make you change your mind about theatre being all mincing “clown-f***ers” (to use a Kings of the Gym-ism).

Sometimes – big call here – theatre might even be as good as New Zealand television. [More


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A must for teachers, pupils and lovers of satirical comedy

Review by Adey Ramsel 10th Feb 2013

Playwright Dave Armstrong is firmly ensconced in the Kiwi psyche as a guarantee of a lively night out at the theatre. With a string of hits behind him, Armstrong has struck the formula and rattles it out to perfection, though never once churning out predictable settings or themes.

Characters are as far flung and ranging as we could wish and his comedy is varied. From low to highbrow, through sarcasm, satire, politically correct (the ‘in’ kind and that out of fashion), and rude innuendo to clever and subtle, it all hits the spot producing ripples of amusement to gales of belly laughs. The future is bright for Dave Armstrong if he keeps the laughs topical and insightful and walks the playwriting path less trod.

With as much irony in the title as you can find, you could be excused for thinking you were going to see a testosterone-fuelled cast jockeying around a sports field. Sport, however, thankfully, is only the starting point for a sharp, clever, insightful and funny script.   

As with The Motor Camp though, the ending is presented to us all neatly tied up in pink ribbons with everyone dancing off into the sunset a la Gilbert and Sullivan. Complete resolution is not always the order of the day, nor is it ever topical.

Head of PE Laurie is King of all he surveys from the sweat-stained old school gym to the PE office where balls, beer and TAB slips vie for position on the floor. In residence is assistant teacher Pat, the middle of the road voice of reason who’s there to link Laurie with his nemesis. Cue Annie – enter stage left – with the flare, energy and naivety of the student teacher, and the ideals and morals of the modern way of teaching.

Within two short hours, Armstrong turns his scalpel on most subjects with religion getting a good slashing, dissecting the whole cult church/Christian leader/tithe issue with ease and humour. In some cases we are presented with both sides of the argument a little too neatly, akin to a debate at times, but Armstrong manages to raise questions on nearly every page, thankfully never giving us the answers. If we want them, we’ll supply them.

Credit to Armstrong that he digs across the board but for the majority of the time we never really see where the writer actually sits – nor do we need to. 

I think a gentle slide into character and situation could have served the play better than the ‘hitting the ground running’ approach we saw last night. I’m all for getting the point across but the first ten minutes allowed no time for audience to get its bearings before we were being asked to laugh at curriculum jokes, resulting in a quiet start for the cast from us, wherein some good material was maybe lost whilst we adjusted to what we were watching.

One obvious outcome of the script – and I’m guessing Armstrong doesn’t mind sharing his answer on this one – is that the educational system and the world in general is far too PC. It really is time we stopped before real human characters are lost and we all slide into a two-dimensional, grey existence. The lesson is given that the old ways served their purpose and a ‘take or speak as you find’ style had, and still has, its advantages. 

John Leigh is superb, filling out the role of Laurie with surprising warmth and humour beyond the obvious gags. His presence is second to none and he commands the company of four with panache and style. His wordplay with Principal Viv Cleaver, played in deliciously over the top and overbearing manner by Bronwyn Bradley are marvellous. Bronwyn Bradley brings joy every time she appears, eager to please, charmingly manipulative with a heart of gold. She, more than anything, bought back memories of schooldays for me. 

Cian Elyse White as newbie Annie Tupua fights hard for her slice of the stage and given that the rest of the cast are reactive around her, doesn’t quite achieve it. Director Peter Elliot has kept the pace up and the action flowing nicely, the cast using the space well but Annie seemed to get lost somewhere along the line. She provides the impetus for each scene and then seems to melt into the background. Her scenes with Bronwyn Bradley are played with a nice touch and when Cian Elyse White relaxes and has something to say it comes across but at most she seems tense and nervous. 

The scenes between Annie and Pat, who is ably rounded out by Brett O’Gorman, seem clumsy at best, clunky at worst, and at times there is maybe a little too familiarity with the set, with hands reaching for props without actually looking for them. 

Design creatives Rachael Walker, Sara Taylor and Brad Gledhill have gelled well on set, costume and lighting respectively, bringing the old school gym office to us. The added bonus – and possibly taken for granted by many in the audience – is the excellent sound design by J P M’Ginty. Apt, subtle and evocative of any school you care to mention, M’Ginty has supplied the backbone of the play right there.

A must for teachers, pupils and lovers of satirical comedy. 


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Theatre in Education

Review by James Wenley 10th Feb 2013

New Zealand’s Education sector contains potentially ripe pickings for a dramatist. It is a perennial battleground of ideologies, agendas, values, and teaching methods and assessments. In recent times the sector itself has resembled a Dave Armstrong style farce: non-standard National Standards, No-go pay and Hekia “Karma” Parata. Armstrong’s newest play Kings of the Gym feels  timely, though, in teacher-speak, does not live up to its potential.

Laurie Connor (John Leigh) is the old-school, unfit, head PE Teacher who has been at Hautapa College – a low decile South Auckland school – for twenty years. You’ll know this type of teacher. He eschews lesson plans and calls his kids nicknames like “Chopstick” and “Harry Potter”. He’s a school institution and the kids love him for his no-nonsense style. He’s joined by Pat (Brett O’Gorman), himself a former student of Laurie’s who continues to be influenced by his mentor. They are the Kings, and their castle is the office that overlooks the gym floor. [More]


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