Chris Skelton - Dominion Post
Jane Waddell and her cast and crew (particularly Chris Ward's sound effects) have done New Zealand theatre proud in this International Arts Festival with a beautifully realised production of Gary Henderson's Peninsula.
Unlike the fictional Grover's Corner in Thornton Wilder's Our Town and Te Parenga in Bruce Mason's The End of the Golden Weather, which came to mind while watching Henderson's fine play, Peninsula is set in a real place: Duvauchelle on Banks Peninsula in 1963.
The central figure is a young boy, Michael Hope, who becomes fascinated by his surroundings when his teacher describes how Banks Peninsula was formed millions of years ago.
The play charts not only Michael's growing awareness of time and place but also of the changes that disrupt this bucolic idyll caused by events in the adult world of his parents, neighbours and teacher. And through the pinhole camera that the teacher shows his students, we see the beauty of the world upside down as it is revealed to one small sensitive boy just before the golden weather ends.
Four of the actors play children, which has potential for being trying, but the actors carry it off with nicely observed details. The fifth actor, Jason Whyte, plays the teacher and a pet dog. The teacher, from Wellington and doing his country service, is tense and stiff-backed, trying to fit into an almost alien community of typical rural Kiwis.
The rest of the top-notch cast have good contrasting roles: Phil Vaughan plays Michael's kindly dad and Michael's bumptious best friend; Laura Hill is Michael's young sister and a bored housewife with a wandering eye; Michelle Amas is the know-it-all child in the classroom and Michael's mother, and Paul McLaughlin is the boorish husband of the bored housewife and, in a sterling performance, Michael.