Centrepoint, Palmerston North

03/11/2012 - 15/12/2012

Production Details

Written by Dave Armstrong
based on a story by Danny Mulheron
Directed by Ross Jolly

Centrepoint Theatre ushers in the Christmas holidays with immensely popular Kiwi summer comedy The Motor Camp, which opens on 3 November. 

Frank Redmond (Christopher Brougham) is a liberal university literacy lecturer, who arrives at the Windmill Motor Camp with his wife Jude (Danielle Mason) and reluctant teenage daughter Holly (Lucy Lever) in tow. To Frank’s dismay, parked next door at the campground are loudmouthed redneck Mike Hislop (Greg Johnson), Mike’s cocktail loving, social climbing partner Dawn (Raquel Sims) and her adolescent, hormone-flooded son Jarod (Nathan Mudge).

The Motor Camp is an hilarious take on that most treasured New Zealand summer pastime: the great Kiwi camping holiday. Or, more specifically, what happens when it all goes ever-so-slightly pear shaped. From the pen of popular Kiwi writer Dave Armstrong (The Tutor, Le Sud, Seven Periods With Mr Gormsby) and based on a story by Danny Mulheron, The Motor Camp has been a smash hit up and down the country since it was first commissioned by Circa Theatre. The play has had immensely successful seasons in Auckland and Christchurch and two seasons in Wellington. NOW IT’S OUR TURN!

This season of The Motor Camp brings together an incredibly experienced cast: Nathan, Greg and Lucy all worked together during the Auckland season of the play; and Danielle Mason reprises her role as Jude, which she played for two seasons in Wellington. The newbies to the play – Christopher Brougham and Raquel Sims – are under the watchful eye of seasoned director Ross Jolly.

Jolly describes the play as “funny, fraught, raucous and rude…and all about us” – in other words, the perfect way to end the year and welcome the summer.

The Motor Camp
Centrepoint Theatre, Palmerston North
3 November – 15 December 2012

Bookings on 354 5740 or via the website:  

PLEASE NOTE: This production contains adult language and content

Christopher Brougham as Frank;
Greg Johnson as Mike;
Lucy Lever as Holly;
Danielle Mason as Jude;
Nathan Mudge as Jarod;
Raquel Sims as Dawn 

Ross Jolly – Director;
Phillip Dexter – Lighting Designer;
John Hodgkins – Set Designer
Gillie Coxill – Costume Designer  

More to these archetypical characters than first meets the eye

Review by Richard Mays 15th Nov 2012

Frustration can be a funny thing. And frustration is exactly what fuels the fun in this raunchy summer holiday romp.

Christopher Brougham’s Frank Redmond is a stress monkey. Tightly wound, the training college lecturer seems prepared to sacrifice not only his summer holiday, but further strain his already arm-length relationship with affection starved wife Jude, played by Danielle Mason, while further alienating his sullen teenage daughter, Holly (Lucy Lever).

The reason behind his frustration is not immediately apparent, but is slowly and surely revealed.

And that’s a feature of this cleverly scripted comedy – there is more to Dave Armstrong’s archetypical characters than first meets the eye. Initial assumptions about them are sooner or later overturned in this campsite encounter between a family of academics and representatives of the small business trades class pitched right next door.

Builder Mike Hislop, partner Dawn Tairoa and her son Jared from Whanganui, played by Greg Johnson, Raquel Sims and Nathan Mudge, seem a friendly, practical, forthright, good-natured, overly helpful bunch. Those qualities alone are more than enough to get on Frank’s nerves. Worse, Mike and Dawn really enjoy caravan-shaking sex.

And then of course there’s politics and social attitudes, with Frank’s fair-weather well-paid socialism at odds with Mike’s totally non-pc style. And for all of that, the passive aggressive Frank is just as bigoted as Mike, and the arguments sound as if they’re lifted straight from the transcript of a talk-back radio show. It’s a set-up that Armstrong uses effectively to take pot-shots at any number of social issues besetting the country.

Under Phillip Dexter’s sunny lighting plot on John Hodgkins’ set with its retro caravan facades, director Ross Jolly and his actors deliver a well-paced and well-timed production. Coming at regular intervals, the laughs make it easy to forgive those moments that don’t quite ring true… and those hoary old Lada jokes. I mean, someone still drives a Lada? In this day and age? When they’re on that sort of combined salary? Really?

Lada or no, the play is a ride the actors look quite comfortable in, courtesy of great casting and teamwork.  Jude and Dawn are both sympathetically portrayed and authentically interpreted by Mason and Sims. The youthful pairing of Mudge and Lever is convincing, and Mudge especially, handling his hormone overdosed role with aplomb – even during the “icky” scene – where possibly the play goes a step too far.

Johnson fills out matey Mike admirably, even to letting his nice-guy façade slip when stepson Jared looks to be getting out of line. But it’s the way Brougham handles the uptight Frank – making him a character any audience can love to hate and revealing his nasty streak without ever losing sympathy – that stands out.

And just as the play spirals down into what seems to be a darkening place, the playwright pulls a snappy happy ending out of his hat – which succeeds because not only is it what the audience believes is going to happen, but also this cast makes sure that it works.

[Apology: This review got inadvertently stranded in the critic’s drafts folder.-ed]  


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Clever psychology within high entertainment

Review by John C Ross 05th 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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