Centrepoint, Palmerston North

20/07/2013 - 24/08/2013

Production Details

Peninsula makes the ordinary universal, timeless and extraordinary… 
…Essential theatre in every respect,
Peninsula is not to be missed”. – John Smythe, Theatreview, February 2012 (NZ Festival of the Arts)

Set in a small-town New Zealand community in the 1960s, Peninsula weaves an hilarious, nostalgic and touching coming-of-age story around the everyday lives of its inhabitants.

A school lesson from an intriguing new teacher awakens a curiosity in ten-year-old Michael Hope about where he fits in the world.

Michael starts mapping his tiny community, unaware of the undercurrents of change and discontent slowly rippling through the adult world and threatening his cosy, comfy place in the universe.

Peninsula was written by NZ playwright Gary Henderson while he was resident at the Robert Lord Writer’s Cottage in Dunedin.  Though the story is fictional, the play is based on actual incidents and places, “an acknowledgement, a nod to a time and a place that was a step on the way to here and now”, the playwright says.

Director Paul McLaughlin knows Peninsula very well – in previous productions of the play he has featured in the dual role of Michael Hope/ Bruce. Because McLaughlin was itching to take the reins as director this time round, Stephen Papps (recognisable from roles in iconic Kiwi films The End of The Golden Weather, The Piano, and Braindead) is taking over the role that McLaughlin knows so well.

The rest of the cast are also well versed in the play – each reprising their roles from the Circa production are Jason Whyte (Apollo 13), Laura Hill (last here at Centrepoint in Hits of 83), Phil Vaughan (currently a familiar face as the dad in the Countdown ads, but a seasoned theatre performer in his own right) and Michele Amas (returning to the Centrepoint stage for the first time since Steaming in the early 90s).

and runs until SATURDAY 24 AUGUST.

Performances runWednesdays 6:30pm; Thursday – Saturday 8pm; Sundays 5pm 
Please note there is no Sunday performance on Sunday 21 July 

Special Performances: 
$20 Tuesday: Tuesday 23 July, 6:30pm. All tickets $20. Bookings for this performance only open on Monday 22 July at 9am through the box office at 280 Church Street or by phone 354 5740. Tickets are allocated on a first in first served basis and we regret we cannot accept email or answer-phone bookings for this performance.  

Prices:  $38 Adults, $30 Seniors, $30 Under 30s, $28 Community Service Card Holders, $18 Students, $68 Dinner & Show.


Gary Henderson’s plays have been professionally produced in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Great Britain, Canada and the United States. Skin Tight won a coveted Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1998. It was also produced in New York in 2006, the UK in 2007 and Canada in 2008.

He received a Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Outstanding New NZ Play of the Year in 2007 for Home Land and Best New Short Play in 1996 for Mo & Jess Kill Susie.

Lynette/Valerie:  Michele Amas
Ngaire/Sylvia:  Laura Hill
Michael/Bruce:  Stephen Papps
Alex/Jack:  Phil Vaughan
Mr MacIntosh/Pug:  Jason Whyte 

Director:  Paul McLaughlin
Set Design:  Daniel Williams
Lighting Design:  Jennifer Lal
AV Design:  Andrew Foster
Sound Design:  Chris Ward
Sound Design Consultant:  John McKay
Costume Design:  Sheila Horton

Fluent, funny, intelligent, evocative, multi-layered story-telling

Review by Richard Mays 24th Jul 2013

“We want a story that starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax” is a quote about movie-making attributed to Hollywood director Sam Goldwyn of MGM. 

In a prescient precursor to the quakes that shook the city on Sunday, Peninsula director Paul McLaughlin could have been reading from Goldwyn’s handbook by giving Centrepoint’s new production [of Gary Henderson’s award-winning play] a cinematic style launch worthy of a big screen blockbuster.

With the lights down and the opening credits rolling on the stylised weatherboard cyc, the sub bass rumbling starts. The reverberation gradually intensifies until, thanks to the newly installed sensuround sound system, the whole theatre vibrates. It’s as if the whole laden auditorium is being physically shunted, crunching back through the years to the time when Peninsula is set, circa 1963/64.

This latter day tribute to Bruce Mason’s The End of the Golden Weather takes place in the settlement of Duvauchelle on the idyllic shores of Akaroa Harbour. Here 10 year-old Michael Hope, his younger sister Ngaire and their friends Alex and Lynette among others, play and go to school without too many cares.

They have a new sole-charge teacher in Gordon MacIntyre, a city boy putting in his obligatory country service. Gordon tells the kids that Banks Peninsula was once a volcano, and this fires Michael’s imagination. The youngster sets about filling a schoolbook with maps detailing his surroundings and those who people them. This so impresses his teacher that the school science fair in distant Christchurch beckons.

To think that Google Maps may have started this way as a spark of similar youthful inspiration. 

That’s not the only tie-in with our modern world, however. Who needs the GCSB when there’s Rhonda the operator on the shared wind-up phone party-line listening in on everybody’s conversations, and spreading the goss around. Her off-duty words will help change Michael’s world and undo at least one character. 

And then, there’s the blind unreasoned prejudice towards anyone who is not considered mainstream, complete with the casual unthinking racism and sexism of the period – attitudes that still exist in many quarters. The auditorium hasn’t been shunted anywhere very far at all. 

While the soundscape [Chris Ward], set [Daniel Williams] and lighting [Jennifer Lal] combine to produce striking atmosphere, mood and effects never seen or heard before at Centrepoint, it’s the actors who provide Peninsula with its soul and its real clout. Each of the five performers take two roles each – youngster and adult, and Pug – a pet dog, rendered in brilliantly effusive fashion by Jason Whyte.

Throughout, the transitions are faultless. The characters that the team of actors Phil Vaughan, Michelle Amas, Laura Hill, Stephen Papps and Whyte create are perfectly pitched, thoroughly believable and singularly memorable.

A rare immersion experience, this slice of imminent nostalgia is fluent, funny, intelligent, evocative, multi-layered story-telling that effectually reflects our present through our not so distant past.


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A smooth assurance and a richness of interactions

Review by John C Ross 22nd Jul 2013

My bedroom, my family’s house, our little settlement Duvauchelle, Akaroa Harbour, Banks Pensinsula, the South Island, New Zealand, the World, the solar system, the galaxy, the universe … So, more or less, in the early 1960s, ten-year-old Michael maps the small part of the world within which he is living his life, within the wider world he’s been told about.

Henderson’s play re-creates and maps for us that milieu, the lives of a bunch of its people, before stuff happens, and when stuff does happen.

Henderson unobtrusively gets things utterly right: the sense of that kind of place and that time (few then had cars, fewer still had television sets, school-kids had ample space to devise their own adventures), dialogue that rings true, characters who are recognisable without being stereotyped or two-dimensional, an action that offers fresh twists and developments through to the end.

Four school-age kids and their dog are getting along happily enough, scarcely aware of tensions among their restless, frustrated parents. The school-teacher who comes to their one-teacher school means well, mostly does well, yet serves as a catalyst for crap happening. Mostly well-meaning individuals get things wrong; a kind of innocence goes down the dunny. 

This is a new production of the play, with Paul McLaughlin directing, yet related to the recent Circa production in which he played Michael, plus the adult Bruce, with these roles taken over very capably by Stephen Papps. Otherwise the cast are the same, with all five cast-members playing two roles each. Naturally a smooth assurance and a richness of interactions and nuancing characterises in their collective performance.

Having seen the Circa production, during the 2012 Festival, I find it hard to pick differences from that. Maybe the noises and thunderstorm at the beginning are more prolonged and emphatic. I don’t remember the working tap, and the business with the child Ngaire having to start the first school-day with the new teacher having to go wash her stinkingly sheep-turdy bare feet. Maybe they were there …

Either way, it’s very neat, in what it shows about the indifference to such of the rural children and the fastidiousness of this city-bred teacher. I don’t recall the episode in which Michael throws stones at the off-stage character Shirley getting quite so savage. 

At any rate, McLaughlin’s directing works well, with never-faltering transitions between sequences. Stephen Papps as Michael conveys vividly both the physicality of the ten-year-old and his mindfulness, his imaginings. As Bruce there’s a clearly distinguished stiff tallness, a latent bitter anger with his lot that sometimes breaks through.

Laura Hill is Ngaire, Michael’s skipping-around younger sibling, delightfully vivacious, and Sylvia, Bruce’s impulsive, frustrated wife.

Phil Vaughan has heaps of vitality as Michael’s friend Alex, and the sequence in which they ride their home-made trolley downhill captures the drama of it wonderfully. As Michael and Ngaire’s dad Jack, he’s a straightforward ordinary joker, of his time.

Which means that – even when reminded of it – he simply doesn’t notice the daily drudgery he leaves to his wife Val, played by Michele Amas as a decent woman who worries about things, and would like wider scope. She’s also good keen school-girl Lynette.

Jason Whyte doubles the school-teacher Mr MacIntosh, a tidy, rather lonely man, with the endearing dog Pug, alternately eagerly dashing around, or flopped down exhausted. 

Daniel Williams’s set is unfussily functional, with a substantial pool downstage left of real water, which the tap drains into, and a patch of trellis mid-to-upstage right to mask that entrance, provides domesticity. Jennifer Lal’s lighting usefully conveys moods and shifts focus.


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