Home' The Wellingtonian : October 6th 2011 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, OCTOBER 6, 2011
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The art of talking off the cuff
Tim Gordon: ''The kids would walk up to me and say 'maaate'.''
Photo: REBECCA THOMSON
talks to Tim Gordon
the priesthood and
being the Meal Mates
Where did you grow up?
Island Bay, born and bred. So is
my mum. She still lives there, in a
house near where she was born in
1927. We're very much an Island
Bay family. I've got a photo of my
mum just after she was born and
the view out the window of her
house is the same view I have now
out my window.
What's the appeal of Island
The connection to family and
the sea. The sea wall there is
where we would have fish and
chips when I was growing up. Dad
would get the bus home early from
work. As a teenager I would sit
there smoking and drink, and as
an adult I like to go there and
watch the world go by.
You trained to become a
priest, didn't you?
Yes. I went to the Hawke's Bay
Marist seminary in 1973. I was
ordained a priest in 1980 and was
very much involved in the Cath-
Why did you leave the
I was just tired. There was
nothing scandalous going on. I
have no regrets about it. It's made
me who I am. I loved being at the
seminary and I'm still a regular
What attracted you to
Ritual, performance, symbolism
and liturgy attracted me to the
church and it's the same with
theatre. There's liturgy, ritual and
symbolism in theatre, even
though the audience mightn't see
it, and I really enjoy that.
What was the first pro-
duction you saw?
Peter Pan. It was a pantomime
at the Opera House. My aunt took
us. I was about five. We had a nap
in the afternoon because it was a
late show. I remember the sound
of the violins tuning up, the cur-
tain going up, the singalongs with
the words written on a big piece of
paper. It was magic. If you saw it
now though, I imagine it would all
look quite hokey.
How did you get into thea-
I was teaching and was using a
lot of theatre techniques in the
classroom. Then I did a theatre-
sports workshop with Liz Mullane
and Annie Ruth. They gave me a
call afterwards and asked if I
wanted to do theatresports pro-
fessionally. I said yes. We won the
national theatre sports compe-
tition that year. Then we formed
The Improvisors in 1990.
Are there things audiences
will often suggest?
When we were doing murder
mysteries in the 90s, audience
members would always call out
Sesqui. If you asked for a place in
New Zealand, Wellingtonians
would always give us Eketahuna.
If we asked for a household object
it would be an egg-beater and for
a room people would suggest the
toilet. We got bored with the same
suggestions, so we'd ask for some-
Weren't you in television
I did a heap of commercials dur-
ing the 1990s. I remember doing a
Telecom ad for their mobile phone
network. I had to travel all over
the country showing the places
where they had mobile coverage,
which wasn't everywhere back
then. Then there was the Meal
Mates [biscuits] ad with the line
Maaate, have Meal Mate, mate''.
I was teaching at St Pat's at the
time and the kids would walk up
to me and say maaate''.
You attended St Patrick's
College. Did you enjoy your
I did. Others who went there
remember all these incidents I
was involved in, but I have no
memory of them. I don't know why
that is. They were informative
years, though, and that's why I
ended up going to the seminary.
Do you remember running
for mayor of St Patrick's?
That was part of a fundraising
effort. Every year the school
would nominate some endeavour
to raise money for and the mayor
was basically the person who
raised the most money. We would
bring over the girls from Erskine
College for a basketball game and
charge people to watch. There
were prefects v teachers games
and we had a car wash. The school
timetable that week was really
quite free. It was a lot of fun.
And now you run an actors'
I started Pro Actors about 10
years ago, after my first son was
born. It was too demanding doing
improv shows at night. I knew the
industry, knew the casting
directors and knew there would be
lots of actors involved in improv
who were getting lost in the big
agencies. I wanted to have some-
thing for them.
Do you have any hobbits on
I can't really tell you too much,
of course. But we are involved
with The Hobbit. We have 10 or 20
people out there [in Miramar]
working as stand-ins, extras,
goblins, orcs and the like. The
Hobbit's really important for
young actors. They work hard, but
are treated well and can earn an
And you're involved with
the Chapman Tripp theatre
I have been for several years
and am producing them this year.
The Chapman Tripps really cel-
ebrate theatre. They've been run-
ning for 19 years and have grown
so much. There is prestige in
being nominated for an award.
We're trying to give it wider
appeal this year, though . . .
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