REVIEW: Kings of the Gym punching above its weight

Kings of the Gym is an absolute slam dunk for New Plymouth Little Theatre.

Written by multi award-winning New Zealand playwright Dave Armstrong, this contemporary Kiwi comedy is overflowing with rude innuendo, plenty of laughs and even a few poignant moments.

Despite them being a hit with the general public, this reviewer often finds Little Theatre’s Christmas shows to be a bit tacky. However, Kings of the Gym is a very pleasant change, and is instead a funny and feel-good night of great theatre.

Kings Of the Gym
New Plymouth Little Theatre
Until December 14
Reviewed by TARYN UTIGER

The play has been expertly directed by Sharren Read, who is no stranger to Armstrong’s superb writing. She has guided her talented team through the ups and downs of this great script, and produced a highly entertaining end result.

Played by Nicola King, politically correct principal Viv Cleaver is transforming her low-decile high school, but struggling to get the PE department on side.

That troublesome department is led by the cantankerous and totally un-PC Laurie, played by Chris Watson. Laurie likes to gamble at work and take his young assistant Pat, played by Tyler McGlone, to the pub. They are soon joined by star netballer and born-again Christian Annie. Annie, played by Anna Phillips, is a new student teacher who likes to play by the rules.

This play has been expertly cast, and the team of four work together like a World Cup winning side, creating tension, pace, drama, and even pathos.

King is fierce in her portrayal of the ambitious, hard-faced and interfering principal, while McGlone does an excellent job of portraying the many sides of Pat, and also providing some great comic lines.

Annie is expertly played by Phillips, who gives the character a sweet
naiveness alongside that motivated and efficient demeanor, while Watson is wonderful as the sexist, inappropriate, crude and yet still kinda lovable Laurie.

Together they tackle issues of sexism, abortion, creationism, and even gay rights – all while throwing banter back at one another and leaving the audience in stitches.

Alongside the acting, one of the highlights of Kings of The Gym is the utterly fantastic set. The set, designed by John Lawson, is the inside of a PE teacher’s office, and boy does it whisk you right back to high school.

The attention to detail and the sheer number of sporting props is just incredible. Dotted around the stage is an old gymnast’s vaulting box, wooden tennis rackets, a plethora of sports balls, a collection of cricket pads, netball skirts, hockey sticks, helmets, trophies, the list goes on. It really is a treasure trove.

Kings of the Gym is a knock-out show, and it deserves a full house for every night of its marathon run. Make sure you get along and cheer from the sidelines.