Kings of the Gym

  • Written by: Dave Armstrong
  • Directed by: Danny Mulheron
  • Circa One
  • 19 January − 16 February

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World Premiere

PC vs. PE!

From the team who brought you the smash hit The Motor Camp, playwright Dave Armstrong and director Danny Mulheron again combine talents to present a delightfully romantic and wickedly entertaining comedy set in a school gym.

Politically correct principal Viv cleaver is transforming low-decile Hautapu High School. The only thorn in her side is the Phys-Ed department. Unfit Laurie Connor spends his days in the gym watching TV and gambling with his talented yet unambitious sidekick Pat Kennedy. But then student-teacher Annie Tupua arrives. Could this star netballer and born-again Christian prove to be the game-changer that Viv needs? As sparks fly and different players joust for position, the only winner on the day will be the audience.

Kings of the Gym stars the brilliant Ginette McDonald (Rage, My Brilliant Divorce), Paul McLaughlin, (The Truth Game, Peninsula), Richard Dey (All My Sons) and Acushla-Tara Sutton (The Truth Game).

A comedy in two halves, Kings of the Gym looks at the really important things in life: competition, compassion, Creation … and PE teaching.

Running time: approx 2 hours (including interval)

Read The road to Kings of the Gym by playwright Dave Armstrong on Circa's blog, drama on the waterfront.

Cast and crew

Starring Richard Dey, Ginette McDonald, Paul McLaughlin, Acushla-Tara Sutton

Show times

19 January − 16 February

Tues, Wed 6.30pm

Thu - Sat 8pm

Sun 4pm

Ticket prices

$46 Adults

$38 Concessions

$33 Friends of Circa (until 3 February)

$39 Groups 6+, $36 Groups 20+

$25 Under 25s

$25 Preview Friday, 18 January and $25 Special Sunday, 20 January

Reviews

Life lessons in oases of testosterone

By Laurie Atkinson, The Dominion Post, 22 January 2013

Dave Armstrong has yet another comedy hit on his hands. Like his play, The Tutor, and the TV comedy, Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby, which he co-wrote with Danny Mulheron and Tom Scott, Kings of the Gym is concerned with education on one level but on another level, it goes deeper.

It all takes place in the tatty office of the physical education department of the low-decile Hautapu High School, which Dennis Hearfield's setting has captured perfectly.

Armstrong describes school gymnasiums as like "little man-caves - oases of testosterone where the PE teachers ruled the roost".

Ruling this roost is Laurie Connor. I have known teachers not unlike him, but I suspect none of these dinosaurs has survived the climate change caused by NCEA. Nevertheless, this comic anti- hero, played to perfection by Paul McLaughlin (pot-bellied, one-eyed, bombastic, cynical and very funny), doesn't quite belong to the "old school" like the antediluvian Mr Gormsby; he's too "Kiwi bloke" for that.

Both are figures of fun as well as thorns in the sides of the PC brigade, represented here by the Machiavellian principal, who is nicely underplayed by Ginette McDonald, and both represent aspects of the good things that have been lost in our brave new NCEA world.

Assisting Laurie is a young teacher, Pat (Richard Dey in a deftly understated performance), an ex-student of the school who has an honours degree in chemistry. He is seemingly lacking in ambition and content to play second fiddle to the man who helped him through an unhappy adolescence.

Enter the catalyst: lively 22-year-old training college student Annie Tupua (a spunky performance from Acushla-Tara Sutton), a Christian teetotaller, virginity pledger and Silver Fern. She brings out the worst in Laurie, who can't abide her belief in creationism; their fight about belief is one of the best scenes.

Annie brings out the intolerance in herself and in the others as well as the lesson we all have to learn about tolerance for other people's beliefs. The topical jokes hit their mark each time (for example, Novopay) but they make the rest of the comedy play out in a time warp. But who cares when the audience is roaring with laughter?

Other Reviews

David Farrar, Kiwiblog

John Smythe, Theatreview

Wellington Reviews

Lynn Freeman, Capital Times

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