Presenting The Tinkles

BATS Theatre, Wellington

23/01/2008 - 02/02/2008

Production Details

Meet Big Tones; an aging, ginger-haired 80’s boybander trying to get back into entertainment scene with a revolutionary idea: Creating a kiwi children’s entertainment group to rival Hi5!

Presenting the Tinkles at BATS from 23 Jan are: aging rocker Dean, Ozzie pop-idol wannabe Meadow, earnest Miriam and bitter thespian Thom and follow the group’s struggles, from their humble beginnings in town halls to the dizzying heights of Good Morning and beyond!

Facing nepotism, an indecent proposal, a shapely real estate agent… and the shock introduction of talent, that’s Tinkle number five. Will Big Tones’ manufactured kiddie-pop creation make it to the top of the charts… or should he just leave it to the Aussies?

"Presenting the Tinkles is a hilarious colourful children’s’ musical definitely for ADULTS ONLY! It’s for every parent and babysitter who’s ever been subjected to kiddies ‘bands’ on repeat and every adult who’s ever secretly sung along as well as every adult who was ever a kid singing along too" say creators Kate McGill and Willow Newey, New Zealand’s own Kath and Kim-esque comedy due. Mockutheatre at its best, find out and have a giggle at the goings-on behind the scenes in the Tinkle towers of the ‘band’.

Presenting the Tinkles is the madness, mayhem and mirth of children’s theatre performers!

Roll on up . . .  Introducing the musical stylings of the Tinkles!

Presenting the Tinkles, live at BATS and possibly miming to music by Jamie Burgess (Revenge of the Amazons, Fitz Bunny) and starring Phil Peleton, Kate McGill, Willow Newey, Leon Wadham, Phil Darkins, Sam Downes and Desiree Rose Cheer

8.30pm 23 Jan to 2 Feb 2008. Book now! (04) 802 4175 or

Big Tones:  Phil Darkins
Meadow:  Kate McGill
Miriam:  Willow Newey
Thom:  Sam Downes
Dean:  Phil Peleton
Ja-Red:  Leon Wadham
Tina:  Desiree Rose Cheer
Willie Waka:  Desiree Rose Cheer

Producer/Assistant Director:  Hannah K Clarke
Production/Stage Manager:  Susie Harcourt
Designers:  Jon Coddington, Glenn Ashworth, Hannah K Clarke, Kate McGill, Willow Newey
LX Design:  Glenn Ashworth
Cartoons:  Jon Coddington
AV:  Hamish Guthrey
Sound Operator:  Hamish Guthrey
LX Operator:  Deb McGuire
Publicist:  Brianne Kerr 

1 hr 15 mins, no interval

A fun filled show full of laughs

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st Feb 2008

Children’s entertainment groups like The Wiggles and Hi5 from Australia that regularly tour here are still as popular as ever.  The bright eyed smiley faces of the performers presenting simple but catchy songs with supposedly some educational value always appear to go down a treat with younger audiences.  But the style of presentation has always seemed ripe for a satirical send-up by some enterprising group which is just what You Can and You Will productions have done with their energetic and very creative show Presenting The Tinkles.  

On a brightly coloured set using film footage of the group – not always successfully though – to link the scenes we learn how The Tinkles came into being, how they developed as a group, the pain and sorrow – often hilariously presented – behind the toothy smiles and how they eventually disintegrate. 

Big Tones (Phil Darkins) – a red head and an ex rocker with The Bro’s – is the brains and driving force behind The Tinkles, hoping to make his name again with their success.  Initially there are four in the group – Dean (Phil Peleton) "an aging gypsy rocker travelling the highways of life", his Aussie girlfriend and wannabe pop-idol, Meadow (Kate McGill), highly strung and earnest Miriam (Willow Newey) and the flamboyant Thom (Sam Downes) who mistakenly believes he is destined for an acting career through RADA. 

When Big Tones introduces his prodigy and what he hopes will be his star turn Ja-Red (Leon Wadham) – another red head – with Tina his mum (Desiree Rose Cheer) in tow, things start to go down hill for the group and never recover. As things deteriorate a few surprises turn up, hair colouring being an integral part of the goings-on and, although the show ends in mayhem boarding on silliness, overall this is a tightly written, well constructed and expertly performed production. 

The energy and panache with which the cast present the opening number sets the scene for the rest of the show which is fast paced and slick, never taking itself too seriously, showing how, more often than not, the ludicrous and banal songs written for children are patronising rather than educational. 

A fun filled show full of laughs that makes for a highly enjoyable evenings entertainment. 


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Big laughs but too much over-acting

Review by Lynn Freeman 30th Jan 2008

The premise is promising – a dodgy entrepreneur (Phil Darkins) tries to bring together New Zealand’s answer to Hi5 and the Wiggles. However the mismatched crew all have personal issues inflamed by jealousies and insecurities, which lead to on and off stage dramas. 

Meadow (Kate McGill) is an Aussie bombshell who’s sleeping with aging rocker Big Tones (Phil Peleton).  Miriam (Willow Newey) is the brainy one who wants The Tinkles to encourage kids to learn maths, while the ‘lovey’ Thom (Sam Downes) is slumming it – he has his heart set on RADA. 

Into this not so cosy foursome comes Ja-red (Leon Wadham), finally someone with genuine talent. But he and his over-protective and over-ambitious mother (Desiree Rose Cheer) cause pain and pandemonium rather than fame and fortune for The Tinkles.

Kate McGill and Willow Newey throw some big laughs our way and some of the Big Brother/video diary video footage is great.  But the writers just don’t capitalise on the opportunities open to them and director Dawa Devereux needs to rein in her cast at times. Some wild overacting and constant yelling quickly becomes tedious. 

Special credit to Jon Coddington for his brilliant cartoons which adorn the stage.   
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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Great songs but nothing behind the cheesy façade

Review by Kate Blackhurst 26th Jan 2008

The Tinkles want to be New Zealand’s equivalent of The Wiggles, or Hi-5, and this ‘mockumentary’ style theatre charts their success, or lack of it, in a high-paced energetic play for grown-ups.

In typical children’s entertainment fashion, they are distinguished by the colours they wear. Dean (Phil Peleton) is the Blue Tinkle, a failed musician with a tattoo, a guitar and delusions of sex appeal. Meadow (Kate McGill), his girlfriend, is a vision in pink from Coolangata – think a blonde Kim Craig. The Yellow Tinkle is Miriam (Willow Newey); ‘plain as arrowroot’ and a bit simple with a dubious attachment to stuffed toys. And finally, Thom (Sam Downes) is screamingly homosexual in his green lycra and his RADA pretensions.

Their manager is a white ginger, otherwise known as a whinger, Big Tones (Phil Darkins), who steps into a spotlight to narrate ‘New Zealand’s pop slash kiddie rock history’. Part of a boy band in the 80s, he now wants to make the group a household name to the under sixes. Before you scoff, The Wiggles were Australia’s highest paid entertainers last year, earning nearly $40 million.

Big Tones decides group needs a new dynamic and he introduces Ja-Red (Leon Wadham), a red-headed teenager who attempts to prove that ‘white rappers can rap’. Where Ja-Red goes, his mother Tina (Desiree Rose Cheer) follows, and they throw the group into disharmony, pitting Dean’s Baby Boomer rock ballads against Ja-Red’s Generation Y hip hop. They are all forced to co-habit in the Tinkle House which increases the tensions both creative and sexual.

Banners at the rear of the stage reveal cartoon caricatures of the Tinkles; wonderful two-dimensional depictions by Jon Coddington. Sadly, this is one more dimension than the characters have themselves. The play pretends to be the theatrical equivalent of real TV, blending Big Brother with Popstars, where characters are selected purely for their defining traits. Big Tones sums up his version of their personalities when he claims, ‘no one wants to send their children to be entertained by perverts, liars, cheats and the homely’.

Dean is perhaps the most multi-faceted character, but this is only because we are told that he’s really middle class, from Khandallah where his parents live with a labradoodle. Supposedly this means that he has an inner conflict, but we never see it. Once the dramatic crisis is established, none of the characters develop, nothing new happens for the rest of the play and it could be a good half an hour shorter. The dialogue is cheesy, albeit deliberately so, the ginger jokes rapidly wear thin and the sexual innuendo is crude.

A giant screen represents the ‘video diaries’ of the characters revealing their inner thoughts, and although some of these are funny, they are more of what we have seen on stage. These segments allow for some slick scene changes and an amusing sequence when some of the band steal the camera and take it out on the town around Courtenay Place.

Another show stealer is the Tinkles trying to out-do each other on the set of Good Morning, anchored by the irrepressible Willie Waka (also performed by the impressive Desiree Rose Cheer). The songs are great – the audience is given a lyric sheet and encouraged to sing along, but they are too busy laughing. The dance routines, choreographed by Virginia Kennard, and the fake sincerity are delightful. It is just a shame that there is nothing behind this façade.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


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What’s in it for us?

Review by John Smythe 24th Jan 2008

The funny thing about humour is that the harder you try to be funny, the less funny you are. And "try hard" was the phrase that most readily rippled through BATS in the wake of Presenting The Tinkle‘s premiere. 

Broad caricature is fine by me. It has a proud pedigree in clowning, commedia and cartoons, and it best proves the truism that comedy is truth. Emotional truth is the key to character comedy; observational truth underpins satire and send-up. And when you advertise your show as ‘mockutheatre’, as You Can and You Will Productions does Presenting The Tinkles, the credibility factor is even more important.

Presenting The Tinkles scores well in the choreographed song sequences, with lyricists Kate McGill and Willow Newey, composer/ musical director Jamie Burgess and choreographer Virginia Kennard producing the goods big time. The whole cast hits a tone and level with ‘Tinkle Time!’, ‘The Learning Car!’, ‘Obesity’ and ‘Ja-Rap!’ that happily sends up the ‘kiddie-pop’ genre by loving it.

The narrative script, by McGill and Newey, starts well enough. Following an up-beat opening with the first two songs, 1980s boy band has-been ‘Big Tones’ Gillespie (Phil Darkins) takes us back to the time he tried to manufacture The Tinkles as New Zealand’s answer to Australia’s Hi5.

He blames the girls for their failure: the deeply earnest Miram (Newey), "as plain as arrowroot" and Meadow (McGill), "an ocker" trying to kick-start her pop idol career. Both these characters are well rooted in human passions and perversities, with Australian TV comedy Kath & Kim seeming to be their stylistic model (Newey’s Miriam, especially, could be Sharon’s Kiwi cousin).

Phil Peleton also hits his emotional marks as aging rocker Dean: demanding, demonstrative and vulnerable. The Dean-Meadow love story is mostly very well done and a good through-line for the show.

But Sam Downes’ ill-conceived camp thespian Thom – "anything for exposure" – never rises above, or flows deeper than, superficial cliché. This subverts any hope for poignancy in Miriam’s blind love for Thom.

The script and directing (by Dawa Devereaux) go right off the rails early on when The Tinkles guest-star on the Good Morning show, hosted by one Willie Waka. Dressed and be-wigged to look like (actual host) Sarah Bradley, she is performed way over-the-top as a camera-fixated automaton by Desiree Rose Cheer. The screamingly clichéd battle of egos the scene collapses into is simply devoid of wit and humour.

As the entry point for Ja-Red, the surprise 5th Tinkle foisted on the group by B T Gillespie, this leaves Leon Wadham with nowhere to go but straight and, thankfully, he does. With Cheer returning to also over-play his overbearing mother Tina, Wadham’s highly credible put-upon 17 year-old becomes the sea-anchor that stops the whole vessel capsizing and sinking.

Darkins delivers a too-loud and self-consciously acted performance as ‘Big Tones’ that could settle down if and when he believes in his role and lets it be. But the whole story twist of his being Ja-Red’s unwitting father – the result of a groupie romp with Tina one wild night in Wanganui – is not given anything like the due it needs to work. Fully embraced and worked into the story, it could offer a reality check and turning point that effectively counterpoints the phoney hoopla of his kiddie-pop ambitions, but it’s not and it doesn’t. Trying to gloss over the clunky bits only makes them worse.

Indeed a key problem is that the non Tinkle characters are the least credible of all and the performance style of the others in their ‘real’ world is not radically different from when they are ‘on’ as The Tinkles. The exception to this is in the solo, private, to-digicam chats, done in the style of Big Brother and Pop Idol and used randomly to bridge the live scenes. And their speeded-up night on the town, on the eve of their big opportunity at The Opera House, is a well shot and edited comic gem (AV by Hamish Guthrey).

But the miss-step that turns the whole show ludicrous, from conception through to execution, is the (Wellington) Opera House gig. What may have seemed like a ‘rilly rilly funny idea’ quickly degenerates into bathos for want of even the faintest link with Truth. For a moment I think we’ll at least be diverted by a cat-fight between Tina and Meadow (who claims to have done it with Ja-Red to get back at Dean for coming on to Tina), but that comes to nothing too.

The opening night audience was super-well disposed to Presenting The Tinkles, put in the mood by Jon Coddington’s splendid cartoon drop-cloths, and applauding and whooping at the first hint the show was about to start, but even their most ardent fans were significantly quiet towards the end. 

Someone murmured "work in progress" to me in the foyer before it started, and that’s always a point to remember with a brand new show: this is the ‘try out’ season. So the question now is, does it have the potential to come right? Somehow I doubt it. As a sketch in a revue parts of it could work (with work). But as a long-form show (1 hr 15 mins), I have to ask, is the purpose really to satirise kiddie-pop and the society that supports it, or is it really just an excuse for a lot of actors to act their hearts out? If the latter, what’s in it for us?


Kate McGill February 1st, 2008

Just noting that Jamie Burgess, the wonderful musical director, was also the lyricist. Willow and I co-wrote 50% of the songs but Jamie was the head-honcho in the lyrics department. Cheers, Kate McGill

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