TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

22/08/2012 - 08/09/2012

Lake Wanaka Centre, Wanaka

21/04/2013 - 21/04/2013

Memorial Hall, 36 Melmore Terrace, Cromwell

20/04/2013 - 20/04/2013

Great Lakes Centre, Taupo

16/05/2012 - 17/05/2012

Suter Theatre, Nelson

26/10/2013 - 27/10/2013

Festival of Colour 2013

Nelson Arts Festival 2013

Production Details

“I came away feeling I had been hit in the face with a glass of champagne,
stunned and delighted.” Hawkes Bay Today

Beautiful Losers is a Comedy/Drama based on the crazed and inspired relationship between writer Jack Kerouac and con artist/car thief Neal Cassady and their journeys through America in the 1940s and 1950s.

In their pursuit of the ultimate high, Jack and Neal leave New York City for Mexico, accompanied by a soundtrack of cool jazz, conversation, amphetamines and booze. On arrival in Mexico they are thrust into the world of William Burroughs and his partner Joan – what happens next is a combination of high times, low deeds and cruel tragedy – almost unbelievable but terribly true.

When Jack Kerouac’s seminal novel ‘On the Road’ is published it propels Jack to the giddy heights of literary fame and seriously challenges his beautiful relationship with Neal.

Beautiful Losers is a sweeping story of fame and its consequences.  It is the story of the man who created the Beat Generation and the beginnings of the Counter Culture.

Beautiful Losers performed at the SiLO Theatre in 2003, Bats Theatre, Suter Theatre Nelson & Playhouse Theatre Hawkes Bay in 2004.

“Margaret-Mary Hollins directs in stream of consciousness style, leaping through their wild life stories… hilarious, profane and tragic. Very polished and very funny.” Gilbert Wong, Sunday Star Times

“Marvellous, irreverent exuberance… A fine piece of work.”  Frances Edmond, Listener

“Nothing short of brilliant.” Lynne Freeman Capital Times

“Nothing short of brilliant….energy and passion never falter as they switch from their main characters to lovers and parents and back again. As the director, Margaret-Mary Hollins must take much of the credit for this production’s success. Her direction is original and visionary, illustrating just how exciting and evocative physical theatre can be at its very best. Which is just what Beautiful Losers is.”

ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival 2012

Great Lake Centre, Story Place, Taupo
Wed 16 May, 6:30pm  
Thu 17 May, 1:00pm  
Thu 17 May, 6:30pm

Running time: 1hr 30mins

All Ages
Premium: $45.00
A Reserve: $39.00
B Reserve: $29.00
Booking fees may apply

TAPAC, 100 Motions Road, Western Springs, Auckland


Wed 22nd 6.30 – Preview
Thur 23rd – Sat 25th, 8pm
Tue 28th 7pm
Wed 29th – Fri 31st 8pm
Sat 1st, 8pm
Tue 4th, 7pm
Wed 5th – Sat 8th, 8pm

Adults $35.00
Concessions and groups 6+ $30.00
Preview $25


Click on a time to book here:

Venue: Cromwell Memorial Hall 
Saturday 20th April: 7:00 PM  

Venue: Lake Wanaka Centre 
Sunday 21st April: 7:00 PM

Nelson Arts Festival 2013

VENUE Suter Theatre
DATE Sat 26 Oct 7pm, Sun 27 Oct 7pm
Earlybird $34, 
Full $38
Plus service fee
Contains simulated drug use.
Book Now » 

Actor (Neal Cassady):   Paul Glover
Actor (Jack Kerouac):  Scott Wills

Lighting Design:  Jane Hakaraia
Technicians:  Michael Craven, Patrick Minto
Musical Direction:  House of Hudson
Musical Engineer:  Drew McMillian
Original Soundtrack Design:  Steve Gallagher  

1 hr 10 mins, no interval

Biting the Apple

Review by Lotus Hattersley 27th Oct 2013

It all starts with a beat, a jazz beat, a typewriter, the heartbeat of the Beat generation. 

The Big Apple 1948, Jack Kerouac – with greased back hair and a white singlet – manically types on a clothing-strewn stage. Neal Cassady enters after noisy off-stage sexual exploits and, with the bite of an apple, the wheels start to turn.

Beautiful Losers is a two-man show depicting the relationship between Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady through their wild, drug-fuelled road trip to Mexico to visit William Burroughs and his wife Joan.

The presentation of saints and ghosts through the performance is palpable at times: either the very real, tangible relationship of Jack and Neal and the Burroughs, or the ghosts of the partial incomplete relationships they shoulder, Jack’s sense of loss at the death of his brother, and Neal’s mourning for a caring fatherly figure.

Jack and Neal themselves act as saints, sinners and ghosts simultaneously. The big name is JACK KEROUAC. Each generation has possessed a well-thumbed paperback, trying to absorb the essence of On the Road. These figures which we have canonized are brought to life. 

The characters set right at the start: Jack is a determined writer; Neal is living but feels like he needs to write; Jack wishes he could feel life the way that Neal does. Neal is the saint, Jack is the ghost. 

Death is present the whole way through the play and the ends looms large like headlights approaching on the highway. Its influence is felt throughout the performance whether it is being dealt with on the surface or subtly driving the direction of the play. We are aware of the ever-present end but are invited to take hold of the moment. Both my mortality and the possibility of immortality exist. I don’t want to ‘let these moments float away’.

In this two-man show the relationship between the two actors is electric, engaging and illuminating. Kerouac is shrewd and able to find significance in actions that others would not see, but requires Neal as a catalyst to observe as he is distanced from the events himself to a certain extent. This can appear as passive observation rather than as the rebellious king that he is often canonized as.

Paul Glover’s portrayal of Kerouac contains a sense of innocence and melancholy as if the moment has passed and he is disappointed. It’s a brave decision to deconstruct Kerouac to be presented as a vulnerable character who allows himself to remain a passenger on this trip, acting as the chronicler of the quotidian; a bystander to the action.

Playwright Mike Hudson crafts this iconic adventure with perfect pace, dynamics and a brilliantly clever balance of wit to focused observation and cultural philosophising. Hudson’s dialogue traces its lineage back to Kerouac’s own style perfectly with detours that attest to the effect that Kerouac had on both Hunter S Thompson and, in this case, Terry Gilliam’s screenplay for Thompson’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

Scott Wills as Neal Cassady is an effulgent and unforgettable performance. This is Wills’ show and Glover is in the shadow of his brilliance. He sits firmly in the driver’s seat as he opens the window and brings the world to Jack. As Dean Moriarty is the life of On the Road, Neal is the heartbeat of Beautiful Losers. Wills’ puissant performance of Joan Burroughs reflects the camp mannerisms of Truman Capote. Scott Wills is the driving force of this show. 

The famous quote, “It’s the simplicity that makes it all so complex,” describes the use of set and lighting. The action is enhanced by superbly simple use of a writing desk and isolated props to allow the actors to flawlessly physicalise up to nine minor characters. However, small details in the costuming department come across as inauthentic and irritating, particularly the footwear. It is more 1990s nightclub than 1950s jazz club.

The soundtrack makes sparing and effective use of pre-modal jazz, with frantic bursts of the bebop so beloved of the Beats providing an exotic, dangerous heartbeat that older white America was still keeping at arm’s length. A key drug scene perfectly combines simple, effective lighting with a primal, cool-jazz soundtrack that disintegrates into discordant psychedelia as the character’s view of reality expands exponentially. While not strictly of the time (most featured music dates from the mid to late fifties), it perfectly captures the essence of Kerouac and Cassady’s journey.

Beautiful Losers is structured into roughly four parts. The sky changes as the clinquant of the Mexican carnival fades with a game of ‘William Tell’ gone wrong and we witness the emotional climax of the play. In stillness, Jack tells Neal a tale of domestic bliss and innocence. He sells him a lie that Neal needs to believe that there is still good in the world as Jack’s pages turn into Neal’s suburban dream. 

Jack Kerouac would have turned 90 this year and the deafening typewriter seems loud enough to conjure his ghost. He is not a portrayed as a saint in Beautiful Losers and we ruminate on the truth of any memorial. His life was changed irrevocably by Neal Cassady with his appetite and courage to take the first bite of the apple, swallow it whole and try not to choke.


Make a comment

Captivated Beats

Review by Laura Williamson 21st Apr 2013

Paul Glover is already on stage as the audience takes their seats at the Cromwell Memorial Hall on Saturday night. As Jack Kerouac, he is typing, madly, possessed, as if he has been there for days. The play begins and he rises, but the desk and the typewriter stay, keeping silent watch as the action moves from New York to Denver to Mexico, the pull of words always there as they were for the Beat Generation’s best-known writer.  

Beautiful Losers tells the story of the friendship between Kerouac and his friend and muse, Neal Cassady. Cassady, a magnetic thief, con artist and drifter who inspired (and slept with) many of the Beats, was the model for Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s American classic On the Road.

For those who know about the Beats already, Beautiful Losers adds little to the story. There’s Kerouac, knowing he has something as a writer but going nowhere, stumbling around New York with Cassady in a fog of sex, amphetamines, jazz and insomnia. There they are rolling across America, stealing and tripping to stay awake. There they are in Mexico, watching as William S Burroughs shoots his wife Joan in the head during a drunken game of William Tell.

The play, then, could easily have been a mere-telling of a narrative we’ve heard umpteen times, including most recently in a (mediocre) film adaptation of On the Road.  

It’s much more than that. Mike Husdon’s script is full of fresh moments, the dialogue standing up to the snippets of Kerouac’s writing recited on stage. “You can dance to this stuff!” Cassady says, evoking exactly the giddy tempo of Kerouc’s phrasing.  

But what stands out most is the acting. Scott Wills storms the stage as Cassady, at once brilliant but lost, projecting a sort of ADHD magnetism that makes you get why artists are drawn to him, even though he is a selfish git. This cannot be easy.

Paul Glover is all over Kerouac, from frustrated writer stymied by publishers “who only know the present”, to smug literary star, to middle-aged has-been; a lonely sagging alcoholic destined for early death.

Both actors take on multiple roles, playing each other’s parents, girlfriend’s, and putting on a brilliant back-and-forth as Burroughs and his doomed common-law wife (Wills is outstanding as Joan, all sloppy angles, loose hips and drawl).

Beautiful Losers not only captures the Beats, it brings something new to a now-famous moment in time, when new kinds of writing flowed from long nights of “saxophones, cigarette burns and lipstick.” 


Make a comment

The Coming and Going of Age

Review by Matt Baker 02nd Sep 2012

As soon as I entered the TAPAC theatre I was struck the realisation that I had seen Beautiful Losers nearly 10 years earlier when it premiered at the Silo Theatre with Ian Hughes and Scott Wills. Wills is reprising his role as Neal Cassady… And 10 years is a long time. While this can bring additional depth to an actor, it inevitably ages them dramatically. An actors’ actual age is not important, but their playing age is, and sitting in the mid-30 to mid-40 decade range, as Paul Glover (Jack Kerouac) and Wills are, they are at the high end for these characters, and I would be more inclined to believe a younger cast who age within the play. The most significant difference this makes is the dynamic between the two men, who go from their textual lives as youths with hedonistic abandonment to (im)mature men clutching onto their fading youth. It’s slightly sad, and slightly creepy, and it also goes against the progress made by Wills’ character towards the end of the play. 

That is not to say that Glover and Wills are not well cast in their roles. Wills has an incredible energy which he sustains with great stamina, and Glover brings a gravitas to his thoughts as only a struggling writer can. These are both talented actors, and they never once drop the ball. They do, however, sit in a certain rhythm, one which, while very specific and hits all the marks, seems to prevent these two actors from really listening to each other and working organically from moment to moment. [More


Make a comment

Beat heroes take a walk on the wild side

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 27th Aug 2012

Beautiful Losers is a heartfelt tribute to American writer Jack Kerouac and his larger-than-life muse Neal Cassady – the free-wheeling drifter who was the inspiration for On the Road.

The Beat Generation classic published in 1957 is often cited as the essential catalyst for the cultural revolution of the 1960s, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest it continues to work its magic for today’s readers – luring sober citizens from the dull routines of conventional existence with an intoxicating vision of ecstatic personal freedom. [More


Make a comment

Overplaying undermines empathy

Review by Stephen Austin 24th Aug 2012

The Beat Poets of the late fifties and early sixties are fantastically ripe for the retelling, especially in these similarly meagre repressed times. None more so than Jack Kerouac’s romantic view of throwing off the shackles of responsibility and hitting the road with your best mate to see where the wind will take you.

His work is a great introduction to the style of many modern novelists and prose poets, but can come across these days as somewhat quaint and idealistic.

Mike Hudson’s Beautiful Losers is a sinewy, stylistically appropriate retelling of the events of Kerouac’s On The Road, told in the cut up style that mostly defined the movement and the real-life characters that formed the story itself. The rapid-fire writing is well moulded to creating a world of literary as well as physical riposte, taking us easily into the mind and culture of Kerouac from the outset. The factual and historical accuracy of the piece is something of a checklist of known events in and around the time, place and people.

The play is restaged ten years after its premiere and Paul Glover capably picks up the mantle of Jack Kerouac, imbuing him with a deep passion and burnt-out melancholy, intensely understated, that makes us feel for his character strongly from the start. He seems fully relaxed and at home with the words and Margaret-Mary Hollins’ direction gives him ample scope to employ his full actor’s palette. 

His approach to other characters within the story is informed by this portrayal, but unfortunately he doesn’t quite manage to sustain any of them as well as the central. For such a well known figure, his William Burroughs is wildly inaccurate and buffoonish, whether this is a conscious decision of actor, director or both, it seems a bit ill-advised when the rest of the production gets so many other factual elements of the story and history right.

Picking up the same role as the original production, Scott Wills, while excellently visceral and tireless, similarly milks the comedy of his characters, but often to the detriment of focus to the staging, especially when camping it up as most of the female characters. His Neal Cassady is a brash, over-the-top womaniser who thinks nothing of drinking himself stupid and hitting the benzedrine for a weekend bender with his best mate. He has aspirations as a writer but can’t stay in one place long enough to concentrate on the physical act of writing, despite there being so much in his head just begging to be let out. 

Both actors play off each other well, but Wills’ tendency to overplay moments tends to nullify a lot of the genuine empathy we might feel for the characters and overshadows Glover’s quieter moments of intensity. This performance style might have suited a less intimate environment than TAPAC; I felt I wanted a bit of a remove from the action, like a proscenium arch, or simply a bit of toning down of performances in the rehearsal process.

Technical elements are well rehearsed and punchy, especially the lighting. Use of silhouetted sequences through a cloudscape backdrop capture the hazy drugged-out qualities and add a depth to the staging. Sound mix is a little too loud at times, drowning some of the excellent prose that should uncover truths which are the backbone of the work. 

Not a wholly unsuccessful re-staging of this piece, but its originality isn’t immediately apparent (perhaps simply staging it to coincide with the new On The Road movie adaptation is enough?) and it seems to creak a bit under the weight of overplaying. Enjoyable in its approach and love of its source material, but perhaps it’s time to hang up Jack’s tweeds. 


Make a comment

High times lead to plummeting lows

Review by Lisa Laitey 22nd May 2012

“So clever” were the first two words that came to mind when describing yesterday afternoon’s performance of Beautiful Losers.

The two-man cast was so brilliant, the execution flawless and the character changes seamless. It was hard to believe at times each was able to play at least three different characters with the simplest of cues, a subtle lighting change, a pair of glasses, a pencil, it was beyond clever.

A story of friendship, passion, creativity and never giving up, Beautiful Losers packs a whopping tale into just 70 minutes.

The story is based on the crazed and inspired relationship of writer Jack Kerouac and con artist and car thief Neal Cassady in America in the 1940s and 1950s.

Seeking inspiration, Kerouac and Cassady head off from their New York base traveling to Mexico with nothing more than music, drugs and beautiful words.

Heads full of big ideas, dreams of grandeur, the two end up in the company of William Burroughs and his partner Joan. I can’t possibly give away what happens next, but high times lead to plummeting lows.

For anyone with a creative streak this performance will resonate on some level, for this writer I certainly related to the idea of “the world whispering in my ear”.

Paul Glover as Kerouac and Scott Wills as Cassady secure the audience within the first few seconds, bringing these two iconic characters to life.

If you missed it and this sounds like a bit of you, check out House of Hudson for more information. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council