By Josh Kerwick
It must have been a struggle to keep all the laughter within the walls of the Pavilion Theatre for the packed opening night of Funny Money, the latest production from Castle Hill Players.
The story follows Henry Perkins (Ben Freeman) after he brings home the wrong briefcase, finding £735,000 instead of his belongings. The play runs at a million laughs a minute, audience members barely done chuckling before they burst out in more laughter.
Funny Pavilion Theatre
Despite Castle Hill Players’ storied history, Funny Money is still a production of many firsts. For one, it’s the first time directing at the Pavilion for theatre veteran Julian Floriano, but theatre regulars will notice some fresh faces in the cast too, particularly in the character of Detective Davenport, played by 22-year old Baulkham Hills local and actor Ben Wheeler in his first role at the Pavilion Theatre.
He was drawn to audition for Funny Money due to both his love for comedic acting and the Pavilion’s reputation for high quality productions.
A bent copper, Davenport is always looking to get the one up on the other characters, proudly bribing and blackmailing his way through the play’s two-hour runtime.
Ben describes Davenport as a cheeky character: “If he sees someone come up with a narrative that he knows is not correct, he’s thinking ‘I’m gonna use this and blackmail this guy on the spot to get more money,’ which is hilarious to play.”
Ben has spent the last year on a variety of film and television sets after graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in theatre studies, after a few years of pandemic affected tertiary education.
From extras roles on Home and Away and The Australian Wars to spending months on blockbuster movie sets rubbing shoulders with A-list stars and directors, Ben couldn’t have predicted how his life in the last year was going to go: “It’s really shaped my view of the film and television industry and pushed me into overdrive to go yep, this is exactly what I want to do.”
Yet there’s an element to community theatre that Ben finds equally bedazzling as an actor. “Community theatre, it’s fascinating to see because everyone there comes from so many different walks of life.
We’ve had this real camaraderie with each other, and it’s fun to play our characters who haven’t interacted with each other, but offstage we’re all just talking, having fun in the green room. It’s just this mashup of people that are all there to create a piece of art.”
You can see Ben and the rest of his exceptional cast in Funny Money until 22nd of April at the Pavilion Theatre.