Nelson’s Ryder McMeeken, 9, will be performing with some of the country’s best actors at the Theatre Royal next month. Photo: Kate Russell.

Big break for aspiring actor


Although acting is in his blood, nine-year-old Ryder McMeeken can’t help but feel a tad nervous about his next role.

The Hampden Street School student has been chosen to perform in the award-winning and critically-acclaimed A Doll’s House at the Theatre Royal on 10 September.

Written by Emily Perkins and directed by Katherine McRae, the modern ‘Kiwi’ adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen classic cleverly exposes the power and gender dynamics within a marriage.

The three-show tour will also be visiting Hamilton and Dunedin, but Ryder will be playing the role of Billy in the Nelson show only.

“I’ve been in two school productions, but I’ve never done anything like this before,” he says.

The auditions were held two months ago, and Ryder was up against six other boys from the region.

“I found out a few days later. My reaction was ‘surprised and scared’.”

Ryder will only get three rehearsals with the Wellington-based cast that also includes Westside’s Sophie Hambleton who plays Nora, Simon Leary, Kali Kopae, Peter McCauley, Francis Biggs, and 10-year-old Sophie Fulton – who plays Billy’s twin sister.

Born in New York, Ryder moved here as a one-year-old. His mother, Tami Mansfield, is American/Canadian and runs a drama school in Nelson.

She says this is an “amazing opportunity” for Ryder.

“We were on holiday in the USA when we heard about it. They were looking for an eight or nine-year-old boy, he was keen, so we signed him up for an audition.”

Just like most other nine-year-olds, Ryder also enjoys playing sports and video games but says he is looking forward to the experience – and of course his family and schoolteacher are looking forward to seeing him up on stage.

“I’m excited and nervous,” he says.

A Doll’s House is on Tuesday, 10 September, 7:30pm at the Theatre Royal. Tickets are available from the theatre box office or Ticket Direct.