What: Wheeler's Luck
Where: Little Theatre McGrath St Napier
When: On until September 8, 7.30pm
Tickets at iTicket.co.nz
Reviewed by: Keith Russell
With September being New Zealand Theatre Month, what better introduction than Napier Repertory Players' hilarious physical comedy Wheeler's Luck?
Written by New Zealand playwrights Toby Leach, Nigel Collins and Damon Andrews, the play is set in a small coastal community, and set within the topical subject of land development versus preservation.
Originally containing 50-odd characters, and believe me some are very odd indeed, portrayed by just two actors, this company has taken the opportunity to expand to a larger ensemble cast of six.
While director Simon Law has worked hard with his cast to provide ingenious solutions to allow for any stumbles in timing, which is so important to this play, energy levels rose and fell and it was not until the second act that momentum really started to build.
To their credit, all cast members never stopped trying, especially in the physical comedy aspects. Their over-the-top voices were well projected out into the theatre, although accents started to slip as the action intensified.
Although a comedy, the writers provided characters with real depth and you could soon recognise what feelings were driving their eccentric behaviour, something that is really important for this type of comedy.
Scenes I particularly enjoyed were a chaotic community meeting which degenerated into a town brawl, the horse race that followed and the scene where the cat shot the existing landowner.
Characters who became audience favourites were Murray, the local busybody; the mayor with a secret agenda; the Auckland developer; and I simply could not resist falling for Trisha, the Kiwi blonde who craved the bright lights of Hamilton (although her mother Cilla was a close second).
Kat Robinson, Brylee Lamb, Stacey Nelson, Glenn Cook, Brent Fairlie and Angus Kelsey performed admirably and, with no scenery and minimal props to work with, applied ample dexterity to produce an astonishing number of effects.
Very important to this play is timing and, while not perfect, I would congratulate all involved in this attempt. What covered up imperfections was good lighting and sound under the control of Peter Hurley and Marilena King, along with an excellent wardrobe.
Choreographer Megan Couper kept the action at a measured pace, which is no mean feat on a small stage.
Wheeler's Luck is used to describe a philosophy that protects the townsfolk when order and chaos collide and viewed as something typically Kiwi, just as much of the humour in this play was.
It's a very good attempt to encapsulate with comedy what is unique about our culture and you will be hard pressed not to find something that will leave you smiling long after you have left the theatre.