Cast of Wheeler's Luck

Wheeler’s Luck

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3-8 September 2019 / 
Napier Little Theatre /
By Verona Nicholson

There is something that happens with live theatre that you just can’t get sitting on the couch watching Netflix. There is an exchange that happens between actors and audience that makes for a unique, almost magical, entertainment experience.

By the second act, Wheeler’s Luck has got the audience in its pocket. Spontaneous applause erupts in response to an unexpected town hall brawl and the silliest horserace you will ever witness! Well worth a night out, this play (which only runs from 3-8 September) will leave you feeling satisfied and well entertained.

Written by three out-of-work Kiwi actors, Wheeler’s Luck is a homegrown piece of theatre that asks a lot of the actors. Scene, costume, and character changes keep them working non-stop to tell the story of a small town dealing with the challenges of environmental, political and financial change. Written in 2004, it remains relevant to current concerns.

Director Simon Law uses a sparse set and few props inviting the audience to use their imagination. At times it relies heavily on the actors to create and hold the mood. Light and sound are notable in creating a strong sense of time and space. Law utilizes melodrama to mark the difference between present and past and draws the audience in by having characters move through the audience, and removing the fourth wall. (I could almost see those golf balls sailing over my head!) Physical comedy provided sparkling moments of fun. I found myself smiling, and then smiling some more. 

The actors are to be commended for their skillful character changes. At times the energy levels were inconsistent from actor to actor and scene to scene. Happily, I was drawn in enough to reap the reward of the high-energy, well-choreographed and fast-paced second act.

Stand-outs for me were: Angus Kelsey’s strong portrayal of Bell End’s Scottish Mayor, Brent Fairlee’s comedic timing and characterization of Murray, the town’s voice of resistance, Glenn Cook’s self-interested Auckland developer and his hilarious shift from ranting to barking, the Blondie Dancing scene with Stacey Nelson and Brylee Lamb, and Kat Robinson and Brylee Lamb’s delightful mother-daughter horseback interchange.

The fact that six actors played 49 characters should give you an idea of the ‘never-a-dull moment’ nature of this play. The number of costume changes on and off stage is mind-boggling. There were characters I loved and others, not so much. Just like in any small community. I wonder who your favourites will be?

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