Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Arts Festival Review: Peninsula

Arts Festival Review: Peninsula

Review by Sharon Ellis
Peninsula PIC CREDIT Stephen A’Court &
Melanie Lisch
Peninsula PIC CREDIT Stephen A’Court & Melanie Lisch

25 February to 18 March 2012
Circa Theatre

The revival of Gary Henderson’s 2005 play Peninsula at Circa for the festival is timely but it is also magic and telling and a tribute to Henderson’s insight.

On the screen at the back of the stage Circa has placed a dedication to the people of Christchurch and the play begins with the slowly rising noise of a huge earthquake. We know this noise. It is terrifying. It emphasises the irony of a play first performed in 2005 having acute poignant relevance to events six years later. The upside down image of toi toi in the sun at the beginning and the gradually recovered image at the end as a family depart from Duvauchelle for a new life create a subtle visual image of a nightmare and a dream.

But Circa’s production has a light, sunny, remembered childhood setting reminiscent of Margaret Mahy’s lovely Banks Peninsula picture book A Summery Saturday Morning.

Each of the actors subtly and seamlessly shifts between two characters, there are no costume changes, nothing heavy or obvious, they are instant satisfying shifts in persona. There are hints in Laura Hill’s restless Sylvia of the perky cute clever little Ngaire with the good kind brother and happy home life. Ngaire is a delight with her energy, her funny walks and jigging feet.

Mr MacIntosh doing his teaching country service turns into Pug with a jerk of his neck. He barks and lolls and runs in such a delightfully doggy performance that Pug is nearly the star of the play. Mr MacIntosh, maybe in some kind of autobiographical reference to Henderson’s own golden days, is written as an excellent teacher, it is a good thing that Jason Whyte has Pug to get his actor’s canines into.

Michael is our centre of interest and the teacher’s too. Michael’s recurring mantra is his address: 1 Main Road, Duvauchelle, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand, Southern Hemisphere, World, Solar System, Galaxy, Universe. He even does it backwards from the Universe home to bed. When Mr MacIntosh looked through Michael’s book of maps it was difficult not to see a real book and want to get hold of it. It was reminiscent of Swallows and Amazons style maps. Paul McLaughlan as Michael is a lovely big gentle charming warm young chap who without a hitch becomes Jack the good keen bloke.

There are almost no props, just the chairs which make up the classroom, the family dining table, the community meeting venue and the glorious trolley the boys make and Pug paces. We don’t miss the real thing, the actors supply all that is needed against the patched up backdrop and grassy floor. It’s a pity about the unnecessary groceries and the washing to be folded.

There is the underlying threat deep in the ground beneath the stage the play is standing on. References to the long extinct volcanic origins of Banks Peninsula inspire Mr MacIntosh’s science lessons. Perhaps by now Michael the beneficiary of MacIntosh’s teaching is one of those geologists informing our understanding of what has happened in Canterbury.

Michael and Alex dig tunnels to explore what is under the ground and there are imagined rumblings from the volcano but it is all there above ground as well. Eruptions of ignorance, violence and bigotry are part of the small 1960s Duvauchelle that is a microcosm of the world, the galaxy, the universe. The stoning, the harassment of the teacher, the family violence are chilling shocking reminders that we haven’t come far. It is too familiar, it is not extinguished after all.

In a promotional piece in the Listener for the first production of the play in 2005 Faith Oxenbridge said of Gary Henderson “He’s not big on wafting about waiting for signs from the universe, either.” She says that the play was originally commissioned to be emblematic of Canterbury. Peninsula was and is, remarkably, both emblematic of Canterbury and a sign from Michael’s universe.



© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: In A New York Groove

Right now, there’s a thing about downtown Manhattan in the 1970s and ‘80s, a lot of talk about an era that still resonates powerfully. Plenty of people in this city, still walking around and breathing in and out, were very involved in the world below 14th Street. More>>


Keith Ng On Public Address: Why The Police And The PM Are Wrong About Rawshark

On 2 October 2014, the Police raided Nicky Hager’s home... During the search, they found a piece of paper... “We considered [the document] was of interest to the investigation because of information we had already obtained”. That piece of paper was seized and designated NH025... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Being Accountable, And Holding The Powerful To Account

Don’t know how you feel about it, but the selective unavailability of Ministers and senior public servants to media scrutiny seems to be a growing concern... Yet often and tellingly, they’re not so beyond-radio-contact that they can’t find time to authorise and email a statement unilaterally stating their position. Which indicates that it is the questioning of the party line that they’re choosing to avoid. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Islam And The Paris Attacks

Presidential contender Ben Carson for instance, wants it to be made illegal for a Muslim to be elected as President of the USA. For the Republican Party at least, freedom of religion in America extends only to tolerating many ways of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour. In reality of course, treating Islamic State as the essence of Islam makes about as much sense as treating the Ku Klux Klan as the essence of Christianity... More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news