The Tutor

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

08/07/2011 - 30/07/2011

Production Details


This critically-acclaimed play from the writer of Le SudBro’ Town, Niu Sila and Seven Periods With Mr Gormsby depicts the collision of personalities and politics when a self-made millionaire hires a washed-out, Daihatsu-driving hippy to save his rebellious teenage son’s math grades. The result is a comedy of (bad) manners with heart.

Playing the role of stereotypical JAFA John Sellers – an entrepreneur whose hard living and fast-talking has definitely rubbed off on his son – is actor Phil Vaughan. “Theatre is my first love as it enables you to explore great characters” says the current Countdown’s Mr Coleman. “I had such a blast on God of Carnage, it’s great to return to the Fortune and spend my day being someone else – especially someone as dynamic and abrasive as John Sellers.”

Vaughan describes Sellers as “the typical kiwi bloke – he talks in circles, suppresses his emotions, but lets a lot of it out once he’s had a few drinks.” Vaughan found plenty of inspiration for his wheeling-and-dealing character “from people I met when I was in the TV game – where there are lots of guys like [Sellers].”

Jake Metzger plays John’s son Nathan: a fifteen year-old whose lack of mathematical skills are more than compensated for by his smart mouth and ability to make deals. Rounding out the cast is Jon Pheloung as the titular “PC-lefty teacher” who finds himself both repulsed and enticed by the Sellers’ world of wealth and excess. Vaughan has nothing but praise for his co-stars: “I had so much fun working with Jon Pheloung at The Court, it’s a blast working with him again in bringing another director’s vision to life. Although Jake Metzger is only sixteen, his acting ability is outstanding. It’s a rarity to discover natural talent like his at such an early age.”

Director of THE TUTOR, Patrick Davies is quick to applaud the cast’s abilities and the strength of the script. He says: “While THE TUTOR is a satire, there is much depth to it. At its heart, the story is about a father’s love for his son. There’s a lot about family, education in school and out, honesty, love, father figures and the role of masculine influence.”

Set in an affluent suburb of Auckland – a locationDavies feels “fits the play perfectly” – Matt Best’s set design creates a functional pool in the intimate setting of the Fortune Theatre and the production purports the best New Zealand sound track heard in years! 

Universally enjoyed by critics and audiences, tackling politics, education and parenthood in one fell swoop and featuring a top-grade cast; THE TUTOR compliments an outstanding 2011 season at the Fortune Theatre.

8 July – 30 July 2011 at the Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart St Dunedin
6pm Tuesday | 7.30pm Wednesday – Saturday | 4pm Sunday (no show Monday)
Tickets: Adults $40, Senior Citizens $32, Tertiary Students $20, Group discount (10 +) $29
Bookings: Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin. Phone: (03) 477 1292,   

Very funny, passionate and very New Zealand

Review by Jennifer Aitken 09th Jul 2011

 We were all teenagers once. We may not have all had iPads, iPhones and access to an unending stream of cash, but we all went to school and we probably all disliked maths; it is of course “a glorious waste of time,” I say borrowing the words from the maths tutor himself. 

The Tutor finds John Sellers (Phil Vaughan), the father of a spoilt, unruly and angry teenager, trying to encourage/bribe his son, Nathan (sixteen year old Jake Metzger), to pass NCEA maths. Towards this end John employs the help of Richard Holton (Jon Pheloung), a “hippie” maths teacher from the local (low decile) high school “Bunga-roa High.”

John, a professed “dole bludger” and now a self-made millionaire, is as brash and abrasive as his son. Needless to say these attributes are less appealing on a 40+ year old man who really should know better. In his performance Vaughan hits the ground at 100km/hr and his pace and energy don’t relent throughout the entire show.

Unfortunately this leaves Vaughan nowhere to go; he is ‘too big too quick’ and although there are some subtleties in his performance his character becomes trapped and is threateningly close to appearing two dimensional. Vaughan is a very comic performer and his skills are utilised well in this piece – he certainly ‘gets the laughs’ – but I can’t help but wish there is just a little more depth in his characterisation. 

As John’s son, Metzger shows promise as a young actor. Nathan is the teenager we dread having, but the teenager we probably were. He is obnoxious and rude and… Let’s just say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Metzger holds his own well throughout and doesn’t allow his character to fall victim to the larger-than-life character that is his father. 

Richard, the tutor, has a tough gig but the compassion with which Pheloung approaches his role makes him every bit as loveable as John and Nathan are despicable. Pheloung proves that you don’t need to yell and swear to get what you want, or the audience’s attention for that matter.  

Under the experienced direction of Patrick Davies, The Tutor is full of those ‘little touches’ that prove to us no decision was made rashly during the creation of this piece. As we enter the foyer there is a wall of photographs placed directly opposite those of the actors. These faces are the faces of maths teachers and the wall is dedicated to them as a ‘Tribute to the Maths Teachers of Dunedin.’

Further, it is worth noting that all of the music played throughout the piece, and in the foyer pre and post show, is New Zealand music and there is a special dedication to showcasing the work of Dunedin artists and bands.

The set, I must say something of the set. It is immaculately constructed and even includes a real ‘water feature’ in the middle of the living space with the dining table off to the left and living room off to the right. The set looks good but I find the functionality of the space limiting as the actors are forced into a shallow stage with a bit of a dead space in the middle.

The Tutor marks the end of the Fortune Theatre’s ‘quad of comedies’: four excellent plays, well presented and incredibly well received. From here we will see the children’s show, a musical comedy straight from Broadway and the world premiere of the New Zealand drama, The Truth Game.

The Tutor is a high note to end this section of the Fortune Theatre’s season. If you don’t mind coarse language and the occasional racist slur The Tutor will undoubtedly prove to be a spectacular night out; very funny, very passionate and most importantly very New Zealand.
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