WHITIREIA THEATRE - return season, Wellington

04/12/2012 - 07/12/2012

Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington

11/10/2012 - 13/10/2012

Production Details


“What’s Wheeler’s Luck?”…“It’s a saying we’ve got round here mate. Means the good with the bad.” 

Meet the locals of Bell End, a small kiwi beach town facing a big problem. An old spinster’s untimely fall down a long drop opens the door for some drastic changes in this little corner of Godzone. With property developers rolling into town, the possible end to the annual Bareback Festival, and ready access to explosives, a divided community begins to ask questions. Where will all the Tarkahays live? What the heck’s a Tarkahay?  And can you eat them?

LONG CLOUD YOUTH THEATRE invites you to join them in their rough, chaotic and hilarious take on Wheeler’s Luck, one of the country’s most notorious plays. WHEELER’S LUCK has been a favourite with New Zealand audiences and returns to Wellington with a limited season fundraiser for the CANTEEN organisation. Long Cloud is proud to support Canteen and the work they do in assisting young people living with cancer.

Artistic Director Aaron Cortesi: “Originally we were using Wheeler’s Luck as part of a training block for some of the company. Along the way we began to enjoy ourselves way too much and now want to share that work with an audience…Take a worthy cause, a little gem of NZ theatre and the raw talent of Long Cloud and you’ve got a great night out.”

WHEELER’S LUCK is a wonderfully funny portrayal of a typical Kiwi town and the colourful people that inhabit it. This story has it all, love, sex, raging storms, environmental messages, high speed horse chases and gun toting felines. Wheeler’s Luck is a heartfelt, playful comedy that recognises the kiwi in us all, we hope to see you there!

Long Cloud Youth Theatre is a hothouse for New Zealand’s most exciting young acting talent. Long Cloud, run by Whitireia New Zealand and based in Wellington, is a unique training and production company for young people aged 16-21. The Company gives young actors the means to enhance their theatrical skills through practical performance experience and the opportunity to work with Wellington’s foremost theatrical directors and tutors. Company credits are TOM KEEPER PASSES (2012) YO FUTURE (2011) SHEEP (2011), DAUGHTERS OF HEAVEN (2011), EQUUS (2010), THE SEAGULL (2010), VERNON GOD LITTLE (2010), TITUS ANDRONICUS (2009), THE CRUCIBLE (2009), GRIMM & COLONY! (2008 & 2009) and SPRING AWAKENING (2008).

WHITIREIA THEATRE, 25- 27 Vivian St, Wellington 
11th, 12th, 13th October @ 7.30pm & Saturday 13th @ 3pm 
All proceeds go to CANTEEN 

WHEELER’S LUCK return season
4 th, 5th, 6th, & 7th December 2012 @ 7.30pm
WHITIREIA THEATRE, 25- 27 Vivian St, Wellington
Tickets $15 ($10 for school groups of 10 or more).
Book online: www.thetheatre.co.nz or (04)238 6225


Tom Clarke
Lily Della Porta
Thomas Gowing
Patrick Hunn
Olivia Mahood
Lewis McLeod
Sam Phillips
Jonathan Price
Freya Sadgrove
Ana Scotney
Chris Swney

Aaron Cortesi (Direction)
Oliver Morse (Design)
Matthew Eller (Lights & Sound)
Hayley Sproull (Original Music) 

Return Season - December 2012

Patrick Carroll 
Tom Clarke
Lily della Porta
Patrick Hunn
Olivia Mahood
Lewis McLeod
Calvin Petersen
Sam Phillips
Jonathan Price
Freya Sadgrove
Ana Scotney
Chris Swney

Paul Tozer: Operator  

Lively Wheeler’s Luck turns at full throttle

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 06th Dec 2012

You have until this Saturday to see this gloriously funny production of Wheeler’s Luck, which was originally a comic tour de force back in 2002 for Nigel Collins and Toby Leach.

The End of the Golden Weather and Toa Fraser’s No 2 have been transformed but not distorted by being filled out with more than one actor and now Wheeler’s Luck has been expanded from two actors playing fifty roles between them to twelve actors playing the forty-nine characters of a remote coastal town and one outsider, a slick Auckland developer who wants to turn the rural backwater into another Queenstown.

In Aaron Cortesi’s inventive comic production it becomes a mixture of Marx Brothers farce at full throttle and what appears to be inspired improvisation. 

It is, of course, meticulously planned and choreographed and the highly talented and uninhibited cast excel with spot on timing, exhilarating energy and the creation of some marvellously wacky characterisations from the hayseed chicken farmer with a penchant for dynamite to the overly aggressive local cop who wears to work a police cap, shorts, and gumboots.

The climactic helter-skelter horse race between the city slicker and Murray, the postie and defender of the town, is played at a furious pace back and forth across the stage, though they are given moments of respite when the race is seen in shadow play, which is a feature of the production right from the start.

There are flashbacks to the 1880s telling us the local legend and how the annual horse race came about. It is staged as a shadow play but the Victorian melodrama characters keep bursting through the curtains to tear a passion or two to tatters.

What is amazing about this production is that it was first seen in October for a run of only three nights and it has now been revived for four nights but it is still as fresh and spirited as it must have been on its first night in October.

It may not have anything to do with Christmas but it is perfect holiday fare for a hugely enjoyable night out. 


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Truly ridiculous, utterly hilarious, and refreshingly agenda-free farce

Review by Caoilinn Hughes 05th Dec 2012

I have to admit that I’m often reluctant to review ‘youth group’ theatre, as I worry that the critical eye that is calibrated for first-rate professional productions might need re-calibration, given the inexperienced actors and minimal rehearsal time given to casual, youth ensembles.  

However, Long Cloud Youth Theatre’s production of Wheeler’s Luck needs no such leniency. It is a committed, confident and fully-achieved production by a talented group of New Zealand entertainers. No doubt, Long Cloud’s Artistic Director Aaron Cortesi has a significant part to play in begetting such a unified and enthusiastic performance by the cast of inspired 16 to 21-year-olds. 

‘Hilarious’ and ‘refreshing’ were the two words floating about the friendly theatre space at Whitireia last night. The first adjective can be attributed to the excellent script, which started out as a devised two-hander. Although there were actors playing multiple characters in this production, it certainly wasn’t a two-hander (it was a 12-hander, in fact) and without a doubt the script requires this larger cast.

I did suspect that the script was originally devised, as fun is central to the story and narrative is secondary; also, there are multiple protagonists (which often happens with devised plays). However, the script has clearly benefitted from editing and fine-tuning, and from the fact that this isn’t its first run. Wheeler’s Luck is undoubtedly a farce, and that it refrains from pursuing poignancy is a very good move by director Cortesi and writers Nigel Collins, Toby Leach & Damon Andrews.

Of course, the performers have a lot to do with the ‘hilarious’ adjective, and even more to do with the show’s ‘refreshingness’. Oh how I want to name names among the cast! but Cortesi asked if I would avoid doing so, as he is trying to encourage a chorus-like, collaborative environment. I will respect that and suffice it to say that there isn’t a weak link in the troupe, though there are a few shining links.

The group work that Loud Cloud fosters manifests in on-stage dynamism, and in the fact that there are no selfish performances; no stage-school limelighters. Stereotype and caricature abound, but the performers manage to bring energy, personality and ownership to the caricatures, and there is always room for lampooning if it’s done as well as it is in Cox’s Point.

This is far from the Kiwi culture-bashing I’ve seen in so many stand-up routines recently. It’s got more of the laugh-out-loud Kiwi charm of Rhys Darby, who I would recommend the show to in a second.  

If you don’t like devised theatre, don’t be put-off. This production is very together. The shadow puppetry and use of the projector are great, and it isn’t self-indulgent (apart from one or two moments that I would omit: namely, the major’s silhouette taking his secretary from behind, which turns out to be [spoiler averted]; and the townsfolk descending into a weapon-brandishing mob, which doesn’t fit the rest of the show’s wit and creativity).

Wheeler’s Luck is running from December 4th-7th, so if you’re looking for a parody of small town Kiwi culture that is truly ridiculous, utterly hilarious, and refreshingly agenda-free, get along to Whitireia Theatre at 7.30pm this evening. Bring friends and family. 


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Truly Kiwi community brought alive with great ingenuity, humour and integrity

Review by John Smythe 13th Oct 2012

Wheeler’s Luck seemed to be one of those ‘cast specific’ plays that would slip off the radar when its brilliant original cast – Toby Leach and Nigel Collins (co-writers with director Damon Andrews) – moved on. It debuted late in 2004, toured a bit over the next two years and then was seen no more … until now.

But wasn’t the magical thing about it that the 55-odd (some very odd) characters were created at breakneck speed and with extraordinary clarity by just two actors? How could an ensemble production compare with that? Oh, but Bruce Mason’s solo play The End of the Golden Weather has enjoyed a number of ensemble renditions; Toa Faser’s No 2 made the successful transition from solo show (with Madeleine Sami) to fully-cast feature film and plans are afoot for Jabob Rajan’s Krishnan’s Dairy to do the same.  

It turns out that it’s an inspired idea for Long Cloud Youth Theatre to do Wheeler’s Luck with a cast of 11. The apparently shonky production values, which are in fact quite brilliant – an overhead projector adding the impression of rolling hills on cream curtains and allowing for shadow acting and puppetry, along with the performances in front of the curtains – give it the feel of a piece of local history re-enacted by, and for, the Cox Point community. 

Legend has it that back in 1882 the horseback elopement from Bell End to Foxton of Jonny Wheeler and Lydia Cox was foiled mid-storm by the floundering would-be survivors a shipwreck off Cox Point. Because heroic Jonny could not desert them, old man Cox reclaimed his daughter.

The contemporary fortunes of Bell End and Cox Point are materially affected by the untimely demise of Nora Cox in her long drop, thanks to a roaming cat and an unfortunately positioned shotgun. And the play’s climactic event has a random outcome that at first seems disastrous but actually gives the threatened town the new lease of life it craves.

This, then, is “Wheeler’s luck”: random forces beyond mere human control bring mixed blessings. It erupts when chaos and order collide and has a good-with-the-bad, lose-some / win-some quality. It’s a philosophy that helps people exposed to radical change regain equilibrium.

The Wheeler legend is drawn as a strengthening strand through the tangled web of local body deceptions that weave the play’s central plot. An Auckland developer, Richard Lush, is in cahoots with the mayor, Duncan Sanderson, to develop the economically depressed Bell End in the image of Queenstown. In particular the natural playground of Cox Point is to be remade as a golf course.

But local postie Murray Dickle does not want to pay green fees to stand on land he fish from when he was four; land on which members of his community were ceonceived. With the help of shire secretary Cilla, he discovers the terms of Nora Cox’s will. Meanwhile Cilla’s daughter, Trisha, is drawn to Richard’s sophistication but craves the bright lights of Hamilton …

A typically shambolic community meeting, designed to trick the locals into backing the required referendum, provokes a wager between Richard and Murray, with Trisha and Cilla riding as their respective passengers. What a climactic sequence! 

Director Aaron Cortesi has worked with his cast to create a range of ingenious performance solutions to the manifold story-telling challenges. By today’s matinee – the third performance – they are all wonderfully relaxed and whimsical; in total control of the faux chaos.

Despite the broad comical style, each character registers strongly as real and recognisable with true feelings driving their behaviour: essential for comedy of this ilk. 

There are plans afoot to tour this around high schools. I hope that comes off. This Wheeler’s Luck brings a truly Kiwi community alive with great ingenuity, humour and integrity.


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