Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

18/02/2012 - 10/03/2012

Production Details

Written by Dave Armstrong
Based on a story by Danny Mulheron
Directed by Conrad Newport

Two couples. Two teenagers. Tumeke!

Celebrate the start of 2012 with a cracker Kiwi comedy, The Motor Camp, at Fortune Theatre.

Nadya Shaw Bennett, Patrick Davies, Joe Dekkers-Reihana, Claire Dougan, Kim Garrett, and Jonathan Hodge star in this new play by award-winning New Zealand writer Dave Armstrong.

Holidaying at THE WINDMILL, a campground run by a strict Dutchman, is Frank Redmond (Patrick Davies), a left-wing literacy lecturer, his long-suffering wife Jude (Claire Dougan) and their daughter Holly (Nadya Shaw Bennett).  Parked up in the caravan next door are the red-necked Mike Hislop (Jonathan Hodge), his social-climbing partner Dawn Tairoa (Kim Garrett) and their hormonally-charged son, Jarod (Joe Dekkers-Reihana).

Hilarity ensues as each couple tries holidaying while keeping their hormonal teenagers apart.

Hot on the tail of directing Dave Armstrong’s latest play, Rita and Douglas featuring Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Michael Houstoun, Conrad Newport is thrilled to return to the Fortune Theatre to direct the first show of the 2012 season with The Motor Camp. The rehearsal room has been riotous from the get-go, says Newport, “With so many crack-up lines it should be called Carry On up the Catlins”.

The Motor Camp is a glorious celebration of our annual Kiwi camping rituals.

Dave Armstrong is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and popular playwrights with a string of hits under his belt. The Motor Camp premiered at Circa Theatre in 2011 and his latest play Rita and Douglas premiered at the Festival of Colour in Wanaka in 2011. The Tutor (seen at Fortune Theatre last year) Niu Sila (co-written with Oscar Kightley), and his adaptation of Sia Figiel’s Where We Once Belonged all garnered Chapman Tripp Awards for Best New New Zealand Play. Other outstanding plays include: Le Sud and King And Country, which have both toured throughout New Zealand.

For television, Dave co-created and co-wrote the comedy series Seven Periods With Mr Gormsby, wrote the satirical series Spin Doctors and was script editor on Bro’Town.

For a prolonged summer, get your tickets to THE MOTOR CAMP now by calling Fortune Theatre Box Office at 03 477 8323, or by visiting our website: 

THE MOTOR CAMP was originally commissioned by Circa Theatre with assistance from Creative New Zealand.

The Motor Camp

Production Dates:  18 February – 10 March, 2012
Venue:  Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin 9016
6pm Tuesday, 7.30pm Wednesday – Saturday, 4pm Sunday (no show Monday)
Forum Night – Tuesday 21 February
Audio Description Show – Sunday 4 March

Adults $40, Early Bird (first 5 shows) $32, Senior Citizens $32, Members $30, Tertiary Students $20, High School Students $15, Group discount (10 +) $32,

Fortune Theatre,231 Stuart Street,Dunedin; (03) 477 8323

Nadya Shaw Bennett, Patrick Davies, Joe Dekkers-Reihana, Claire Dougan, Kim Garrett, and Jonathan Hodge

Creative Team:
Matt Best– Set Designer,
Brian Paavo – Lighting Designer,
Maryanne Wright-Smyth– Costume Designer,
Stephen Kilroy – Sound Designer 

A very NZ holiday hell

Review by Barbara Frame 20th Feb 2012

It’s the holiday from hell as the very intellectual, liberal Redmond from Dunedin find themselves next to Invercargill über-bogans Mike Hislop, his wife Dawn and her teenage son Jared.

Clashes between the families are inevitable, and there’s internal family conflict as well. Apart from the odd spot of violence, Mike’s household have themselves fairly well sorted out, but the Redmonds have brought tension with them. Frank’s a good teacher crumbling under the pressure to publish, and it doesn’t help that wife Jude is academically more successful and openly contemptuous. Sulky daughter Holly seems welded to her phone.

There are obvious comparisons with The Tutor, also by Dave Armstrong, which played at the Fortune last year and contrasted educated and ignorant attitudes, and Roger Hall’s Four Flat Whites in Italy, which did something similar. But while serious topics such as racism, family violence and social class are aired in The Motor Camp, don’t look for much in the way of meaning. The emphasis is on comedy, much of it, as Holly would say, “gross.”

Patrick Davies plays Frank, demonstrating his character’s inhibitions and status anxiety. As the apparently effortlessly high-achieving Jude, Claire Dougan is carefully controlled, and Nadya Shaw Bennett shows us an all-too-believably bratty, privileged teenager.

Jonathan Hodge’s Mike is nothing if not crass, and Kim Garrett’s Dawn finds a warmth and tolerance that the Redmonds, for all their principles, cannot approach. Special mention must go to Joe Dekkers-Reihana, whose facial expressions and highly communicative body language make his portrayal of the inarticulate and functionally illiterate Jared outstanding.

The Motor Camp presents excellent and very New Zealand characters and situations, and I can’t fault the Fortune’s production, directed by Conrad Newport. I tired, however, of the play’s farcical antics, tasteless laughs and foul language, and found the ending over-contrived.   


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Darker issues explored amid frenetic farce

Review by Terry MacTavish 19th Feb 2012

The Fortune’s 2012 season is off to a flying start, after a brilliant launch of its whole programme, that proved to be fascinating promenade theatre in itself. The Motor Camp seems certain to continue Fortune’s successful wooing of theDunedin public with quality comedy, much of it purest New Zild. It’s funny, it’s dirty, it’s provocative. Audiences will love it.

The caravanning holiday resonates all too powerfully with Kiwis. Who hasn’t struggled to put up a tent in the rain, only to find it positioned next to the neighbours from hell? At a beach camping ground somewhere in the Catlins, the scene is set for the tragi-comic catharsis induced by such forced intimacy.

Playwright Dave Armstrong’s philosophy sounds simple and obvious: ‘I like to get people laughing and then get them thinking’. This is a lot more easily said than done, but The Tutor, Le Sud, etc show Armstrong can walk the walk too.  He is fast becoming the favoured son of Kiwi comedy.  Niu Sila, his play about racism co-written with Oscar Kightley, is far and away the play most frequently recommended to each other by teachers of NCEA Drama.

Director Conrad Newport has collaborated with Armstrong before, and his sure touch is evident in the pace and timing of this energetic production, especially the frenetic farce of the second half. Armstrong’s themes revolve around the importance of trust and communication in family life, of following your instincts and seizing life with both hands, which in comedy terms usually means a good bonk-fest; but he also explores darker issues of racism and domestic violence.

Newport’s cast deals uncompromisingly with both aspects. Stock characters (stuffy academic, redneck builder) and frantic farce (desperate efforts to prevent a cuckolded partner from realising what’s up in a rocking caravan) are enthusiastically embraced, but the laughter is silenced by scenes that are genuinely chilling, as when the redneck ‘disciplines’ his Maori stepson.

While Armstrong has a wickedly accurate ear for our vernacular, the coarse language and sexual references (innuendo is too delicate a word) will be bound to shock many, and indeed some jokes would benefit from a lighter touch. (Perhaps, as with Niu Sila, an expurgated school’s version will be made available.)

The set, designed by Matt Best, juxtaposes two caravans, visually divided by the camp loudspeaker, which barks out fascist messages from the offstage manager, ‘Dutchie’. The more old-fashioned caravan in 70s brown and orange belongs to the educated middle class Redmonds, the flashier one to the working class Hislops. I’d like to have some sea or bush in view, but it serves the action well.

Maryanne Wright-Smyth’s costumes enhance the credibility of the characters, climaxing in a superb array of apt sleepwear that has the audience howling.

The actors all succeed in creating sympathy for characters who for the most part are pretty unlikeable. Chief among these is Patrick Davies, comically infuriating as Frank Redman, the ultimate holiday wet-blanket: a lecturer in literacy who learns a hard lesson. Davies has the lean agility for the physical work required and the panache to carry off a scene in which he gives a reading lesson using an x-rated Penthouse magazine as text.

Claire Dougan’s whiplash body and prim mouth are employed to perfection as Frank’s frustrated wife Jude, academically more successful than her husband, but yearning for a little attention and tenderness. They both strive to make believable a somewhat unbelievable, if welcome, resolution to their marital problems.

Jonathan Hodgeseems made for the role of rough diamond Mike Hislop, boorish but good humoured, bravely flaunting the most striking bottom since Pippa Middleton.

As Dawn, his Maori partner, Kim Garrett displays warmth and exuberant charm (her entry with lurid cocktails is a winner) balanced by a careful watchfulness where her son is concerned.

Teenagers will identify instantly with the adolescent children, typically agonising over the embarrassing behaviour of their parents while checking out each other. Holly and Jared are made completely plausible by Nadya Shaw Bennett and Joe Dekkers-Reihana, two extremely promising young actors.

Bennett totally nails teenage angst with her display of despair when she’s dumped by cellphone: ‘He didn’t even use vowels!’ while Dekkers-Reihana creates a surprisingly sweet and vulnerable boy just emerging into manhood. Indeed the most moving moments of opening night for me were those when the audience’s protective instincts were audibly aroused whenever he seemed in danger.

The Motor Camp is a good choice to kick off the year, with our memories of summer at the beach still fresh and ready for dissection by a talented crafter of NZ comedy, whom many see as the natural successor toRoger Hall. And it really does seem to be bringing in a virgin audience. Exiting the theatre I bumped into two patrons absolutely brimming with delight, who had never been to the Fortune before. ‘Why are you here now?’ I asked politely. ‘We sell caravans,’ they chorused triumphantly. They’ll be back.  


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