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Written by Natasha Hay, Arts & books, The Listener   
Sunday, 30 August 2009

Since Wheeler’s Luck debuted at Wellington’s Bats Theatre two years ago, the plucky little two-hander has become an arts festival darling. Hugely entertaining, quirkily Kiwi and showcasing two brilliantly talented comic actors, it’s a perfect show to kickstart Auckland Theatre Company’s 2006 season.

The performances fizz with vitality and exude a joyous sense of play – you can imagine the fun that actors Nigel Collins and Toby Leach, with director Damon Andrews, must have had devising this crazy “rural comedy” that opens with old Nora Cox carking it in her longdrop. Together they have refined Wheeler’s into a tight production that’s as sharp as it is deliciously silly and, at a breathless 80 minutes, there’s not an ounce of fat on it.

With the only prop a large bell and no cozzie changes, Collins and Leach brilliantly evoke what seems to be the entire population of Bell End, a tiny coastal community that an Auckland developer has his eye on for a multi-million-dollar entertainment facility. Essentially, the play is a ripping yarn about the fate of nearby Cox Point, which for years has held the community’s annual horseback race and festival, and we witness melodramatic flashbacks to a pivotal event in 1882. Now, the future of the idyllic spot is under threat – the developer wants it, and the town is split apart as its way of life is endangered.

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