Centrepoint, Palmerston North

24/07/2021 - 22/08/2021

Production Details

The Complete History of Palmerston North (Abridged) zooms its way through Palmy’s past and present faster than a stock car doing laps around The Square! 

Through song, satire and silliness, this hilarious deconstruction of nearly 150 years of Palmy history will have you in stitches. 

Written by Gregory Cooper (That Bloody Woman, The Streaker) this show is the perfect way to celebrate our home town’s 150 year anniversary! 

Centrepoint Theatre, 280 Church Street, Palmerston North
24 July – 22 August 2021
Wednesday 6.30pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday 7.30pm
Sunday 4pm
Opening Night: Saturday 24 July
Post-Show Q+A: Wednesday 28 July
Student $25
Subscription Package $35
Concession* $37; Early Bird $35
Adult Full $45; Early Bird $40
Dinner + Show $80 – $90
*Seniors and Community Services Cardholders. Valid I.D. is required.

Starring Regan Taylor, Jess Loudon, Kane Parsons
Lighting Design Talya Pilcher
Costume Design Shiloh Dobie
Set Design Tony De Goldi
Choreography – Ian Harmon

Theatre ,

Looks certain to clip a lot of local tickets

Review by Richard Mays 26th Jul 2021

Abridged too far is the initial reaction to this rough-and-tumble skit-based pun-laden play celebrating Palmy North’s 150th jubilee.

On the face of it, the rapid-fire sesquicentennial rattle down the decades equates to 150 years crunched into a 90-minute performance, or roughly one year every 40 seconds since 1871.

There will be those who think that as nothing ever happens in Palmerston North, 90 minutes is simply unjustified self-indulgent excess. Some might shy away from attending what could be litany of places, dates and names delivered at breakneck property-auction or rap-singer speed.

Others though, will think this entertaining expose of ‘the greatest city in the world, Palmerston North!’ is long overdue. So, this specially commissioned piece faces the dilemma of how to proceed, what to include, what to leave out, and why 1871?  

That was the year someone in the New Zealand colonial postal services affixed the ‘surname’ North to Palmerston – a muddy, mosquito-ravaged, bush-ringed settlement of some 200 hardy souls in the middle of a North Island nowhere known as Manawatū. 

The geographic reference was to prevent confusion with an earlier established town in ‘north’ Otago with the same ‘first’ name. Both settlements had been chosen to memorialise recently deceased British prime minister and ‘statesman of the age’, Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, aka ‘Pam’.

1871 was also the year that Palmerston North’s first shop opened, and the first boatload of Scandinavian settlers turned up to clear land for farming, and to work as loggers, road and railway builders. The Scandi presence is acknowledged with a parody of Abba’s Waterloo.  

Of course, the story begins a great deal further back than that, with the play’s opening scenes establishing Palmy’s extended pre-European whakapapa. Turns out, the 1864 negotiated sale by mana whenua Rangitāne of the Te Ahu a Turanga land block for the town in the Papaiōea clearing they called Pamutana, was a deliberate effort to encourage European settlers into the region for the benefit of all. 

It’s material that wouldn’t be out of place in any revamped Aotearoa/New Zealand history curriculum. The excursion into pre 1871 history however, effectively shortens the play’s year-per-minute ratio.

So, what to make of this production – part revue, part pageant, part music hall and part history lesson, which includes non-threatening opportunities for audience participation.

TCHoPN(A) hinges on three energetic and versatile performers adept at engaging with the audience and quickly changing hats, costumes, characters and accents.

Palmy trained actor Regan Taylor brings a taste of The Māori Sidesteps – one of the cheekiest and delightfully subversive shows ever to sweep the country – to his multiplicity of personas, among them a diminutive caricature of Queen Victoria.

Taylor shares keyboard and taonga pūoro duties with fellow local acting alumnus Kane Parsons. The pair performed and recorded together during the naughties as KARS, a kids’ musical duo. Their deliberate OTT exuberance is kept in check by a more-or-less level-headed and highly accomplished Jess Loudon, who occasionally ventures into drag-king territory.

Among the personalities the trio profile are Rangitāne leader Hoani Meihana te Rangiotū; ‘the father and mother of Palmerston North’ George and Louisa Snelson; Charles Munro, the founder of New Zealand rugby who settled in Palmerston North; and Fred Dagg the iconic gumboot-wearing persona created by Palmy born, the late John Clarke. 

While the presentations should tighten up as the season progresses, they show how history can be enlivened by including minor incident and chance anecdote, though there were plenty of other directions the script could have explored.

Missing maybe is the wild west style manhunt, shootings, arson and hysteria that surrounds the escapades of perpetual prison escaper Joe Pawelka.

What about rugby player Ted On the Ball Secker and his team the Manawatū ‘unscorables’; the time that Milson aerodrome wrecked pioneer Aussie aviator Charles Kingsford Smith’s famous Southern Cross aircraft; or the Madge Motors link between Dame Edna Everidge and Palmerston North.

On the other hand, the extended ‘Scottish Play’ segment could be shortened, along with some of the more prosaic brag-sheet drop-in listings of names, dates, places and accomplishments which doesn’t quite mesh with the play’s main vibe.

But in front of a packed and fiercely parochial crowd, opening night is the prompt for a party – a political party devoted to all things Palmy, focused on overturning decades of bad press from the likes of John Cleese and other know-nothing naysayers.

Not a play (or a party) that will travel well beyond Manawatū, but Palmy-nauts lap it up. If initial audience reactions are anything to go by, this rambunctious tribute to the ‘windy wonderland’ and ‘flat nirvana’ of Palmy Norf looks certain to clip a lot of local tickets.


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