Maidment Theatre, Auckland

11/02/2012 - 03/03/2012

Production Details

Written by Dave Armstrong
Based on a story by Danny Mulheron
Directed by Roy Ward

Auckland Theatre Company

A comedy of sizzling summer shenanigans 

The holiday fun continues as Auckland Theatre Company brings summer to the stage with THE MOTOR CAMP, which opens the 2012 Encounter season on February 9, at the Maidment Theatre. 

Award-winning actors Lisa Chappell, Greg Johnson, Stephen Lovatt and Nicola Kawana star in this cracker of a comedy, set in a classicNew Zealandmotor camp.

Two couples. Two caravans. Two teenagers.

“All too amusingly real… hilarious and touching at the same time.” – Dom Post

Frank Redmond (Stephen Lovatt), a left-wing literacy lecturer, subjects his long-suffering wife (Lisa Chappell) and daughter (Lucy Lever) to a run-in with their garrulous camp neighbours: Mike Hislop (Greg Johnson), a redneck builder, his social-climbing partner Dawn Tairoa (Nicola Kawana) and her hormonally-charged son, Jarod (Nathan Mudge).

“A superbly crafted comedy.” – Theatreview

Hilarity ensues as they each try to enjoy their holiday and keep their hormonal teenagers apart.

A gloriously funny take on our annual Kiwi camping rituals written by the award-winning Dave Armstrong, one of New Zealand’s most prolific and popular playwrights. His hit Niu Sila (co-written with Oscar Kightley) played a sold-out Auckland Theatre Company season at AK05 and won a Chapman Tripp Award for Best New Play.

Auckland Theatre Company also staged his adaptation of Sia Figiel’s ‘Where We Once Belonged’ in 2008 and acclaimed comedies The Tutor in 2007 and Le Sud in 2010. He has also written King And Country, which toured throughoutNew Zealand. For television, Dave co-created and co-wrote the comedy series Seven Periods With Mr Gormsby and wrote the satirical series Spin Doctors. 

“The perfect après-holiday comedy about the surprising ups and annoying downs of your summer camping experiences.” says Colin McColl, Auckland Theatre Company’s Artistic Director.

To continue your summer with a guarantee of no rain, snap up tickets for
from the Maidment Theatre, 09 308 2383
When: Saturday 11 Feb – 3 March

Where: Maidment Theatre 
Tue-Wed, 6.30pm; Thur-Sat, 8pm; Sun 4pm
Sat Matinee, 25 Feb, 2pm 


Lisa Chappell

Stephen Lovatt

Greg Johnson

Nicola Kawana

Nathan Mudge

Lucy Lever

Creative team:

Roy Ward - Direction 

Brad Gledhill - Lighting Designer

Andrew Foster - Set Designer

Nic Smillie - Costume Designer 

Bringing back the cultural cringe

Review by James Wenley 15th Feb 2012

Like many kiwis, I joined the yearly summer exodus from the cities, and went camping over New Years. The miserable rain-drenched ‘summer’ of 2012 had little to write home about of course, but it did provide me with one memorable experience: the family holiday train-wreck. Not my own, thank goodness. Evidently, the family at a camp site across from me had been asked to leave thanks to the bad behaviour of one of the young men the night before. As the mother tried to keep it together, stoically and systematically packing up, the younger sister went all-out psycho at her brother with many a ‘how could you?’ and ‘I’m never speaking to you again’. As I sat in my fold out chair, only a few metres away from the scene, and watched this fascinating family implosion, I thought; this sure is good material for a play.

Dave Armstrong for one was able to recognise the dramatic potential of the camping holiday – take a family out of their normal environment, and watch all hell break lose.  Working off a story by Danny Mulheron, his play The Motor Camp, presented by Auckland Theatre Company, is a clever dissection of our yearly ritual and our confused kiwi identities. [More


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Campground comedy plays up class-cringe jokes

Review by Janet McAllister 13th Feb 2012

For the second year in a row, the Auckland Theatre Company – a national “arts leadership” organisation – has opened its annual season with a deliberately crass and bawdy farce. Jokes about bums (some funny, some not) mean bums on seats, and those looking for an evening’s light, tasteless entertainment will find much to enjoy here, such as – once again – Andrew Foster’s impressive photo-realist set.

Last year, the season launch was a Stephen Sinclair edit of 1970s slapstick comedy Well Hung; this year, it’s a Dave Armstrong adaptation of a story from Sinclair’s old Meet the Feebles collaborator Danny Mulheron. ATC is ticking the “local” box with these blokey efforts – but is our comic playwriting pond really this small? [More]  


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You can’t argue with a theatre full of laughter

Review by Adey Ramsel 12th Feb 2012

Yay, a comedy you can actually laugh at!

Funnier than a pair of budgie-smugglers on a sixty year old grandad, and just as shocking in parts, Auckland Theatre Company couldn’t have wished for a better opener to this year’s season. Here is a play that is pure and simple unadulterated entertainment. A commercial success and a sure-fire hit.

Skilful playwright Dave Armstrong wraps his two hour non-stop gag-fest with acute observational themes of literacy amongst our youth, and the stresses of parenting, long term marriage, race, culture and keeping your head above water career-wise and financially. Laugh your head off and take the satire home with you to dwell on, or laugh your head off and consider the ticket money a bloody good investment. 

A 2012 Kiwi ‘Carry On…’ movie for thinking grown ups, the play pits an academic couple complete with lovesick daughter in one caravan against working class Mike and Dawn and Dawn’s hormonal son Jared in another.

From the first encounter these two men are not going to get on. It’s academic Frank who starts the animosity though it takes a while for heart-of-gold Mike to pick up on it. By the time the two teenagers are late home one night from the beach, the line has been drawn in the sand and the scrap is on.

I’m not going to go any further into plot – the play’s already on its return season inWellington– so there are reviews aplenty if for some reason you want to read all about it before you see it. But if I were you, just go. It’s clever. It’s funny. It’s something you’ll enjoy. There are jokes, racism, sex, clean jokes, dirty jokes, very dirty jokes and plenty of one-liners to keep a stag night comic happy for months.

Greg Johnson and Stephen Lovatt are suitably paired as Mike and Frank respectively. Johnson plays Mike as a down-to-earth Kiwi with a sense of what’s right even if it is misguided in terms of strict parenting.

Lovatt keeps the pace and deals well with what could have been a monotonous garble of yells and shouts. He pitches Frank just under repetitive loud mouth prick.

Lisa Chappell plays University Lecturer Jude, complete with a frigid layer of sensible clothes and long-forgotten sex. Her transition into femme fatale is maybe a tad too quick to be believed but it’s from here on in that we slide into the farce. Despite a slightly bumpy crossover, she handles it well.

Nicola Kawana is a joy as Dawn, a role nicely underwritten and underplayed to boot… ugg boot, that is. Here’s a woman who fills out leopard print nightgown, and a role to perfection.

Newcomers Lucy Lever and Nathan Mudge as Holly and Jared show that teenagers can hold the moral high ground sometimes and show the parents a thing or two. Debuts maybe but on par with a very solid cast.   

Director Roy Ward has kept a breathtaking pace on the script, nicely grounding his cast resulting in a relaxed and effortless viewing.   

Andrew Foster’s colourful set is reminiscent of those bygone days and nostalgia for holidays that seem to be fading fast. Utilising the space between caravans as a kind of boxing ring for the two groups, it never feels cramped or limited. Lit by Brad Gledhill with a palette of beach, sun set and warm balmy days, it made you want to grab your togs and get up there with them. 

The script as a whole borders on farcical in that we’re asked to suspend realism, none more so than in the ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ ending – but that’s only an issue for those incapable of it. It’s certainly not a criticism from me. You can’t argue with a theatre full of laughter and a happy gaggle of punters streaming out the door remembering their own holiday adventures and coming up with friends’ names who they’re going to recommend the show to.  


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