January 21, 2013

Kings of the Gym: PE vs PC

I was a little apprehensive that Kings of the Gym would be a play for the boys. I do think that they would enjoy it but I defy anyone not to. Laurie (Paul McLaughlin) and Pat (Richard Dey) are two genuine kiwi blokes; into sport, gambling, drinking and putting in as little effort as possible to get by. The other half of the cast is balanced out by the great Ginette McDonald as Viv "Cleavage" Cleaver, Hautapu High School principal and boss to our two heroes, and Acushla-Tara Sutton (who needs a simpler name) as uptight, happy-clappy born again student teacher Annie Tupua.

The first thing I should really say is that this play is hilarious. Within the first five minutes the whole audience were in fits. A swear word thrown in unexpectedly, one characters naivety compared to anther's world weary view

Paul McLaughlin manages to look exactly like my PE teacher at high school. His character is a blend of charm and jokey bigotry. The best performances are from him and Ginette (of course), despite her wig. They play off each other well, firing dialogue in a quick volley. I'm not sure if Acushla-Tara is always cast in an annoying role or whether there is just something I don't like about her. Annie is such an irritating creature to start with that had I met her in real life I would be hard pressed not to slap her. This student teacher (who is at the school for an inordinately long time) with her dedication to the "right thing" helps to highlight the ridiculousness of the new curriculum and teacher college training as well as their application in real life. Thankfully she develops more human aspects as the story progresses. Pat is possibly the weakest character but he is in Laurie's shadow and does progress to individuality.

Another hugely detailed set (how do they do it?) makes it feel as if a wall is missing from the gym and we are really just listening to the usual goings on. The actors move around the space naturally, making tea, watching TV and passing balls across the room.

Playwright Dave Armstrong explores narrow mindedness in all of his characters and reveals that perhaps the most obviously bigoted is in actuality the most inclusive. This is a real kiwi play, it looks at the way we live our lives - how laid back we tend to be - and all the things important to us: sport, gambling, drinking, education, family, religion and our cultural heritage. The major theme for me was about real inclusion, not the superficial "mandated" kind but the kind that comes from real team work.

Showing: 19 January – 16 February (Tues/Weds 6.30pm, Thurs-Sat 8pm, Sunday 4pm)
Tickets: $25 - $46
Location: Circa Theatre
For more info and tickets go here

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