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Tuesday, 21 May 2019 06:43 pm

REVIEW: Camp play at Circa is more than just a comedy

Camping grounds are a great leveller of human society and they are well-depicted in Circa Theatre’s current production, The Motor Camp,  writes JENNY GILCHRIST:

CAMP FRICTION: Cast, from left, Tim Spite, Phil Vaughan, Anthony Young, Danielle Mason and Florence Mulheron. IMAGES: Wellingtonista.

THE timing of Circa’s latest production, The Motor Camp, is perfect as the memories of a camping holiday for many New Zealanders will be fresh in their minds.

The opening sequence of the play sees the Redmond family arrive at their caravan site at The Windmill Motor Camp.

Playwright, Dave Armstrong, has written a tight script from which the audience will quickly identify the personality traits of the actors.

Frank Redmond is a college of education lecturer, whose prime focus for his visit to the camp is to finish his thesis on the teaching of reading.

His wife, Jude, is a professor of arts at Victoria University.  Her role is mainly one of political correctness, but another dimension to her character emerges in the second half of the play.

Holly, their 15-year-old daughter, is accompanying her parents on the camping holiday only under duress.

Florence Mulheron’s portrayal of a surly teenage girl was incredibly real. The rolling of the eyes and lack of co-operation generally will ring true to anyone who has spent time in teenage company.

Camping grounds are a great leveller of human society.  Dave Armstrong and director Danny Mulheron have not missed the opportunity to introduce a working class family to the middle class Redmonds.

Herein lies the beginning of miscommunication between these two social classes within New Zealand.

Fellow camper Mike Hislop is a building contractor who is staying in the adjoining site with wife Dawn and her son Jared.

From this point the attitudes, aspirations and educational achievement of these two families come to the fore.

Some of the best lines of The Motor Camp are delivered during the interchange between the uptight, controlling Frank, played by Tim Spite, and the companionable Kiwi bloke Mike, Phil Vaughan.

Armstrong uses malapropisms cleverly a couple of times during these interchanges, Mike’s confusion between the words thesis and faeces had the audience in stitches.

However, there were some interchanges between the two men that were predictable such as when Mike is peering through binoculars describing a sexy girl on the beach, Frank grabs them and exclaims “That’s my daughter!”

Sex is a prevalent theme throughout The Motor Camp. The strategy of appealing to the masses is at odds with the more aesthetic plays the Circa Theatre usually produces.

Mike’s character develops over the course of the play and we see there is more depth to him, particularly in regards to his relationship with stepson Jared.

Frank’s ability as an educator is emphasised in the second half of the play, in a poignant scene with Jared, when the debate of teaching phonics versus whole language is examined in a humorous way.

However, the sentiment of this dialogue is more than just humour and highlights the complexity of teaching and learning.

The Motor Camp explores the competitive element that can occur between couples.  As the play progresses the lack of equilibrium between Frank and Jude becomes increasingly obvious.

Jude’s status in a university irks Frank as he is a lecturer in a college of education and hence his motivation to complete his thesis.

This situation is summarised in a retort to his wife: “You’ve already been published”

The irony of a Dutchman running a motor camp in New Zealand was not lost on the audience with the draconian rules and regulations being frequently broadcast over the camp’s loudspeakers.

Being on holiday provides a unique time where true communication can occur between friends and family members and that is the beauty of The Motor Camp, it’s exposure of real issues and  real relationships between people.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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