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Review: THE WHALE RIDER at The Pumphouse Theatre, Takapuna, Auckland

Review: THE WHALE RIDER at The Pumphouse Theatre, Takapuna, Auckland

The Whale Rider is visualised and physicalised storytelling at its finest.

Me mahi tahi tatou, mo te oranga o te katoa.

(We work together for the good of everyone)

Take one of Aotearoa's iconic stories, craft it in respectful creative collaboration (ngakau mahaki) with its venerated author, respect its pononga (genuine truth), cast it with inspired vision, and you will have theatre that is certainly worth seeing. The official opening of this 2022 production was led by the kaitakewaenga, Tamati Patuwai - and it was an honour and privilege to have Witi Ihimaera himself speak and give his blessing to the project which began in 2014.

The Tim Bray Theatre Company is Auckland's leading theatre for children and Tim Bray's creative interpretation and direction of Ihimaera's novel is visualised and physicalised storytelling at its finest. I particularly appreciated the contribution of the NZ sign language interpreter at the side of the stage (Platform Interpreting NZ Ltd.) ensuring that everyone could follow the narrative. This is inclusion at its best.

An outstanding production is always the result of teamwork, of the theatre whanau working together. The collaboration in this production is particularly strong. The design team of Rachael Walker (Scenic and Props), Steve Marshall (Lighting), Vicki Slow (Costume) are joined by Ben Anderson (Puppetry Designer and Maker) and Chye- Ling Huang (Puppetry Director). Together they present the story of Kahu, the descendent of Paikea, who seeks to prove her ability to lead, to fulfil her destiny as the whale rider, the legendary chief of her generation - despite being a girl.

Working seamlessly to convey the narrative and capture the powerful emotions of the story are the very talented and expressive cast: Kat Glass, Jaeden Lawrie, Awatea Timothy, Christian George, Talia Pua and Erin O'Flaherty. This is synchronised physical theatre simultaneously merging with puppetry and AV projection. The actors are visibly integrated, holding the puppets, echoing their movements and providing expressive facial expression so you don't know which to watch. In fact, you watch them both working in unison. The range of voices played by the each of the cast are entirely truthful, whether embodying trees, birds, fish, characters or providing the captivating sound effects (such as the combi van, the whale cries and the sounds of the ocean). The narrative is subtly integrated and beautifully layered with live music - guitar, ukele and kalimba - from the skilled hands of Kim Halliday. Congratulations too to the Movement Coach, Linda McFetridge. The blending is beautiful and the entire integration smooth.

The audience - young and old - were completely captivated throughout especially those truly beautiful and plaintive sequences such as the anguish when the whales become stranded on the sands of Whangara, or hearing Kahu voice her love for her grandfather. There were hoots of belly laughs at the witty realistic dialogue between "the boys", and at the very humorous "surfing combi van" rumbling its way to Whangara Beach.

The production runs from 24 September til 12 November in Auckland, at The Pumphouse (Takapuna), Due Drops Events Centre (Manukau), Te Oro (Glen Innes), Glen Eden Playhouse and Māngere Arts Centre. This includes school holidays - so take the children along! What the audience can expect is a supremely delivered production - energetic, moving, and skilfully told.

Tickets are very reasonably priced - available through timbray.org.nz



Mike Bartletts SNOWFLAKE is Now Playing at Plumb Theatre Photo
This November Plumb Theatre presents the New Zealand premiere of the critically acclaimed festive hit Snowflake. Written by Olivier Award-winning playwright Mike Bartlett (King Charles III, Doctor Foster), Snowflake stars Michael Lawrence (Simpatico), Layla Pitt (Po' Boys and Oysters) and Clementine Mills (Stop Kiss). Performances run through 11 December 2022.

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Plumb Theatre Presents Mike Bartletts SNOWFLAKE This Month Photo
This November Plumb Theatre presents the New Zealand premiere of the critically acclaimed festive hit Snowflake. Written by Olivier Award-winning playwright Mike Bartlett (King Charles III, Doctor Foster), Snowflake stars Michael Lawrence (Simpatico), Layla Pitt (Po' Boys and Oysters) and Clementine Mills (Stop Kiss).

Plumb Theatre Presents Mike Bartletts SNOWFLAKE Next Month Photo
This November Plumb Theatre presents the New Zealand premiere of the critically acclaimed festive hit Snowflake. Written by Olivier Award-winning playwright Mike Bartlett (King Charles III, Doctor Foster), Snowflake stars Michael Lawrence (Simpatico), Layla Pitt (Po' Boys and Oysters) and Clementine Mills (Stop Kiss).


From This Author - Glenda Pearce

Glenda Pearce is a  porfessional speaker on #bodyworks #body communication # effective communication . She is also a specialist professional effective speaking coach and workshop faci... (read more about this author)


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