Clear eye for the straight guy [by Sharu Delilkan]
It’s not often that North Shore residents get the opportunity to see a play that offers an eccentric and a somewhat exaggerated reflection of themselves.
But being a Shoresider himself playwright Andy Saker provides the perfect perspective that at times makes the audience cringe due to the harsh reality of the situations he’s created in his skilfully scripted play Gavin Puts Things Straight.
The sequel to Pear Shaped, the play is centred around a typical North Shore family living what appears like a simple existence on the ‘sunny’ side of the bridge. They are handyman Gavin (Pete Coates), his mum Noelene (Louise Wallace), who’s shacked up with young ‘stud’ Duane (Allan Roberts), his dad Keith (David Mackie), younger brother James (Daniel Bonner) and grandad (Michael Murphy).
The play is very much in keeping with the spirit of Pear Shaped. Domestic situations of the living room, workplace and an old people’s home provide familiar settings to the mostly North Shore audience.
Comic references to Milford, Takapuna, South Africans (loud arrogant and with no dress sense) also lend the play a local flavour – rare in Auckland theatre.
Normally sequels are rubbish, as proved by The Matrix, Titanic 2 and almost every follow-up horror film. But Gavin Puts Things Straight bucks this trend, as did The Godfather II, and it’s undoubtedly better written and produced. The ensemble cast shows much talent with solid performances from all, and the numerous comedic and tragic moments are well portrayed.
Bonner deserves a mention as the youngest member of the cast who puts on a believable performance that belies his age and experience.
The hilarious role of the ever-appearing neighbour Giles (also Assistant Producer Rob Owens) is reprised to the obvious delight of the crowd, added to the humour with his slapstick portrayal of a well-meaning albeit ridiculous neighbour that’s always ‘at the wrong place at the wrong time’.
For a posh North Shore audience great delight was taken from the ‘scandalous’ use of swear words from unexpected characters – none more so than the expressively played grandad.
Coates or rather Gavin is the lynchpin of the story, and strikes just the right balance between laidback fisherman/handyman and maturing adult with a strong desire to do what is right by his parents. And his girlfriend Karen (Rachel King) is the archetypal blonde bimbo with a heart of gold.
Highly successful comedic value is found at the expense of the entrepreneurial Duane. If it hadn’t been a North Shore play he could almost have been a Westie with highly apt ringtones, in-yer-face tee shirt messages and a brash ‘balls and braces’ manner. I especially liked his latest inventive moneymaking scheme that, although maybe was not as successful as hoped in the play, I found myself wanting to seek out his products in real life. Nicotine infused vodka just has to be mentioned as the best idea I’ve heard of since the ‘widget’ gave us draft beer in cans.
The story zips along nicely for the first half with great musical interludes accompanying the scene changes. Following the reveal of the well-kept family secret, some of the multiple scene changes seem to inhibit the flow of the following storyline. It may be that lighting separate portions of the stage, successfully used elsewhere in the play, might help to keep the narrative moving at this critical point.
Writer Saker has excelled himself and consolidated a reputation as an author of North Shore stories for North Shore audiences.
One unanswered question in the play however is “Who dropped the fucking broom?”
A catch phrase that I think should be the title of Saker’s next play.
Judging by the audience’s response, many would definitely go to see it and so would I.
Gavin Puts Things Straight, presented by Devonport Theatre Company, plays at The Pumphouse Theatre, until 14 May. More information at Devonport Theatre Company website.