Review: THE CAMPERVAN at The Pumphouse, Takapuna, Auckland

The Campervan runs through Sunday, September 18th.

By: Sep. 18, 2022
Review: THE CAMPERVAN at The Pumphouse, Takapuna, Auckland
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Who would win in a fight between a rooster and a multi-millionaire? How do you get promoted in the Green Party as a woman in your 50s? What's the best style of man-bun? Does feijoa wine taste good? What diet does a flexitarian eat? Can we truly change our ways?

Playwright Kathryn Burnett examines these issues in her comedy, The Campervan.
Burnett is described as writing a "funny, smart" play by director Simon Prast; I totally endorse this as an accurate description.

Initially, The Campervan is set in a universal setting of a disastrous family gathering. This gathering is the backdrop for Hugh's revelation he has sold up and will be giving away his millions to follow his world-saving idea which includes living in a campervan. Much of this has been inspired by his first wife and this causes problems in his current marriage. The juxtaposition of living in wealth and living in a campervan is very stark. None more so once the said campervan takes pride of place on stage for the second half in all its two-dimensional glory.

Burnett's script is full of wit and wisdom. An audience loves to judge and The Campervan's audience was given plenty of opportunity to indulge in hypocritical judgement. I laughed at the one-liners from the 'male, pale, stale' lead character Hugh (Grainger), his trophy second wife Tamsin (Toop), his statistic spouting, world-saving first wife (Chappell), and his woke man-child son (Cawthorne). The dysfunction carries on into his company where he acts without reference to the board which is represented by Johnny (Johnson) his conniving friend and board chairman.

All actors are suited to their roles and carry the script admirably. Andrew Grainger as Hugh is physically demonstrative in his humour which carries the audience and the scenes are connected by punchy one-liners and sometimes slapstick. Grainger is not below getting a laugh through self-deprecation. Watching Lisa Chappell on stage was my highlight. She plays Hugh's subtly, manipulative first wife, Gillian. Her performance as a 50-year-old up-and-coming, political party insider leaves me wondering if she should pursue a second career in politics.

Hugh's announcement, putting into action, and abandoning his save-the-world plans sees a return to his natural modus operandi, yet is he any wiser for his journey?

Burnett has written a seamless play full of terse one-liners which leaves one with much to think about. The last theme of the play speaks of people's self-interest in observing the experience of others and this is a strong subsidiary theme after a comment on Capitalism. The play boils society down to two sorts of people: the ones who are focused on the accumulation of more, and the self-serving leeches who survive off those who accumulate. The audience starts by laughing at the characters but leaves wondering if we were laughing at boldly painted versions of ourselves.

This play deserved its sell-out season. Look out for more of Burnett's work and book quickly!

Tadpole Theatre Productions has completed its successful season of The Campervan and its next play is staged at the PumpHouse for 4-14th May 2023.
Review: THE CAMPERVAN at The Pumphouse, Takapuna, Auckland


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