4th Wall Theatre, New Plymouth

08/10/2014 - 11/10/2014

Production Details

Devised by Nigel Collins, Toby Leach and Damon Andrews
Directed by Holly Shanahan 

The classic Kiwi hit and Edinburgh Festival smash comes to New Plymouth 

“Rich, wacky, perceptive, touching and outright hilarious”

“Gloriously funny”

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?

Wheeler’s Luck is a wonderfully funny portrayal of a typical Kiwi town and the colourful people that inhabit it. The story has it all, love, betrayal, raging storms, environmental messages, high speed horse chases and gun toting felines. Wheeler’s Luck is a playful comedy that celebrates the Kiwi in us all.

Under the direction of professional Holly Shanahan, with a company of the bravest and best youth performers Taranaki has to offer, Wheeler’s Luck is a riotous romp through small town NZ under threat.

Join us for this a chaotic, ridiculous, heartwarming, rough and raucous night. This is a first for Taranaki, and a venture we hope to extend into professionally led work being made and presented by and for the wonderful arts community of Taranaki.

08 Oct – 12 Oct
4th Wall Theatre
Dates, Times and Bookings

Director: Holly Shanahan 
Holly was raised in Taranaki and has worked in the professional theatre and film industry for the past decade. She is most well known for her work at Circa Theatre, Taki Rua theatre and with fortyfivedownstairs in Melbourne. On screen you can see her in the two upcoming films ‘How To Murder Your Wife’ and ‘Venus and Mars’.

Raeanne Boschat - Josh Clarke - Lahleina Feaunati - Richard Gottlieb - Laura Griffiths - Rebecca Hey - Josie Hick - Nadia Hill - Mitch Lagera - Libby Needs - Emma Rattenbury - Sophie Woudt - Ellie Wren

Assistant Company 
Annie Bykova and Rachel Keen 

Presented with the incredibly generous support of: 
Razz Printing
Bent Anvil Productions
Playmarket NZ
Building Recyclers New Plymouth
Marie Hunneyball

Polished and engaging

Review by Ngaire Riley 09th Oct 2014

This is not a ‘kids show’ for ‘kids’. Congratulations West Coast Youth Theatre. Your performance of Wheeler’s Luck on opening night entertained everyone.

The story is told through characters strongly created by the actors through energetic physicality. These citizens are confident, outrageous and engaging. The performances are rooted in the traditions of commedia dell’arte and pantomime. 

All the actors use physical motifs, excellent focus and ‘being in the moment’ to create the strong, distinctive personalities that are found in a small place where everyone knows each other.

The first actor who arrives on stage is Josh Clarke, as Johnny Wheeler. His crisp miming and mercurial timing sets the calibre of the show. Emma Rattenbury as the local ‘greenie’ is outstanding. Her clear diction, high energy and sparkle drives the contemporary story of a battle against a resort development by an interloper from Auckland who is in cahoots with the local mayor.

The ensemble work by the rest of the actors is delightfully Under Milk Wood at times. Characters pop in and out of doors and curtains and rush about their business with zany vigour. This energy is supported and complemented with signs that pop up and props that are handed out through curtains – like the fax sheet that arrives slowly – shadow imagery and a bold soundscape. Delightful stuff. 

The programme says that Laura Griffiths is 13 years old, which makes her characterisation of Cilla, a middle aged mum, quite unbelievably good. The policeman and possessive father created by Ellie Wren are wonderfully memorable, as are Rebecca Hey’s portrayals of two very contrasting characters. Lahleina Feauinati plays a teenager who dreams of bigger things and her final rejection of Mr Lush in favour of leaving for Hamilton is lots of fun. 

Josie Hicks as Richard Lush, the developer, sustains a smooth, confident demeanour. As the antagonist of the story this character needs to portray a more menacing ulterior motive to begin with, which could have been conveyed through the direct address to the audience, as he seemed too nice and too easily won over in the end. Mitch Lagera’s wonderfully strong, bossy, wheeling and dealing Asian character is marred by unclear diction.  

Richard Gottlieb as the mayor, Libby Needs as the C19 sweet heart, Raeanne Boschat as the police sidekick, Nadia Hill, Sophie Wouldt, Hachel Keen and Annie Bykova are to be congratulated for providing a range of rich, interesting, supporting characters.

On opening night there was a loss of coherence in the middle of the story, after a strong start and before a brilliant horse race. The ending was also unclear. Did they die? Were they on the hill overlooking the point? The audience also seemed unsure about when to clap. The use of LED strobes and a mix of styles of music and costumes also make the ‘now’ of the story a little blurred.

Overall, congratulations Holly Shanahan for directing a show that feels polished and engaging. The actors are confident and clearly love sharing the space that is live theatre. Slick timing and humour with nuance is a strong feature of this Wheeler’s Luck. “How many bars are there in Auckland?” queries one… pause… “Heaps,” replies the mayor quietly. Props and set are swiftly shifted. The switches from present to past are seamless. It flows well.

Thanks also to the 4th Wall Theatre, a private theatre in New Plymouth, for supporting this initiative. 

Wheeler’s Luck is an excellent choice of play for the actors and the audience. Friends staying in New Plymouth this week couldn’t understand why the New Plymouth District Council hadn’t sold off its two beach front Holiday Camps for millions. The clash of the spiritual and cultural importance of land with financial ‘development’ is ever present in New Zealand.


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