Revisiting high school

Last updated 15:37 18/01/2013
Kings of the Gym
Royalty: Acushla-Tara Sutton and Paul McLaughlin get into character during rehearsal.

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Paul McLaughlin expects Kings of the Gym audiences to be rolling in the aisles before an actor utters a word.

Writer Dave Armstrong and director Danny Mulheron, the team behind The Motor Camp have created another assembly of characters, with traits that will be instantly recognisable to anyone who wasn't home-schooled.

McLaughlin plays dissipated PE teacher Laurie, Ginette McDonald plays by-the-rules principal Viv and newcomer Acushla-Tara Sutton plays bright-eyed, bushy-tailed student-teacher Annie.

''They are not cartoons, but you will recognise them from your time at high school.'' McLaughlin said.

Laurie spends his days in the gym, watching television, gambling and hanging out with the kids and Annie presents a culture shock for him.

''I've just graduated from teaching college, a student on secondment who wants to do things in all the PC ways she has just learned,'' said Sutton.

A fundamentalist Christian, her views are very much at odds with Laurie's, and she is also on the brink of selection for the Silver Ferns.

That rings bells for him. Once the fastest flanker in the province, he could have been a contender for the All Blacks.

''He didn't make it because he had to get a job and he has ended up stuck in this gym for 20 years,'' Sutton said.

He is like a lot of modern teachers, swamped by administration responsibilities, when he would really rather be connecting with the kids, kicking a ball around with them, she said.

Principal Viv knows the rules. ''Viv plays the game well. She knows what's required of her by the Board of Trustees, by the Ministry of Education and by the teachers' training college,'' McLaughlin said.

''She uses all the big words and all the new terminology, but you can see she doesn't quite believe it.''

But, Sutton said, ''there is a feeling she would rather be more like Laurie''.

The Circa production is the show's premiere, McLaughlin said.

''We've spent a lot of time tossing the ball around and getting the script on its feet. It hasn't been a case of just getting the script and doing it. Everyone has had a lot of active input and it's been great.''

Kings of the Gym also features Richard Dey. It plays at Circa Theatre until February 16.


 Actress Acushla-Tara Sutton said it had been refreshing to be only performing in Kings of the Gym.

 She was last seen on the Circa stage in The Truth Game, which coincided with the crunch time of year in her business and marketing studies. Between her scenes she spent her time studying backstage, while Mclaughlin cracked jokes.

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She managed to multi-task, despite the distractions, with a worthy performance on stage and straight-A academic results.

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- The Wellingtonian


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