Baycourt X-Space, Tauranga

14/07/2015 - 14/07/2015

Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland

15/07/2015 - 18/07/2015

The Famous Spiegeltent, Havelock North Domain, Havelock North

01/11/2015 - 01/11/2015

Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland

19/02/2015 - 22/02/2015

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

07/03/2015 - 13/03/2015

Kavanagh Auditorium, Kavanagh College, 255A Rattray St, Dunedin

05/10/2016 - 06/10/2016


Auckland Fringe 2015

Capital E National Arts Festival

Dunedin Arts Festival 2016

Production Details


In the magical world of flitting butterflies, jumping eggs and giant swaying flowers, two lycra-clad puppeteers try their hardest to remain unseen and at service to their puppets: two enormous plump caterpillars.

Things are just not going to plan. This is the story of their failed attempts at aviation and beautification. Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, with nothing but their wits to cover up their escalating blunders, two appealingly hopeless clown puppeteers bring upbeat absurdity, slapstick silliness, and a good dose of reality to their hilarious and unpredictable antics.

Caterpillars is created by Thomas Monckton, creator and star of the multi-award-winning Moving Stationery and the Edinburgh Fringe 5-star hit The Pianist, which recently toured throughout Europe. He studied at the physical theatre school of Jacques Lecoq in Paris, where he is now based. “I love bringing my new work home to try out on the kiwis, and it’s exciting to have a show in the Auckland Fringe that caters for the whole family,” Monckton says. “5 year olds are the most honest critics!”

Caterpillars is performed by Thomas LaHood and Victoria Abbott – both of whom work as clown doctors for Wellington Hospital and Starship Hospital where they strive to create a positive atmosphere at a time and place when patients and their families most need an emotional boost. They bring their impressive physical theatre skills to this wordless child-friendly performance that can be enjoyed by young and old alike.

The show is being staged as part of the curated Q Theatre TASTY 2015 programme within the Auckland Fringe and Pride Festivals, which promises to be home of some of the summer’s most exciting and innovative work.

As part of Auckland Fringe Fest 2015
Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland
Feb 19 – 20 6:30pm, Feb 21 – 22
2pm & 4pm
Bookings:, 09 309 9771 
$20 Adult / $16 Concession / $12 Child /$55 Family (2 adults, 2 children) 

As part of the Capital E National Arts Festival
Public shows: Sat 7 March, 10am & 11.30am

ON TOUR 2015

BAYCOURT X Space, Tauranga  
Tuesday 14 July
10.30am & 1pm

BRUCE MASON CENTRE, Takapuna, Auckland
Wednesday 15 – Saturday 18 July
10.30am & 1pm 

The Famous Spiegeltent, Havelock North Domain, Havelock North
Sunday 1 November 2015, 2:00pm 

Winner: Best Costume, Best of Theatre Auckland Fringe 2015

Arts Festival Dunedin 2016

Kavanagh Auditorium
Wed 5 Oct 2pm
Thurs 6 Oct 11am + 2pm
General Admission
Adult $20
Child $10
 Buy Tickets 

Performed by Thomas LaHood and Victoria Abbott
Costumes:  Rauko 
Operator and Stage Manager:  Bridget Carpenter

Theatre , Puppetry , Physical , Clown ,

Totally bewitching

Review by Terry MacTavish 05th Oct 2016

Nothing like caterpillars to give you warm fuzzies. They are so adorable in themselves, the tiny feet, the wiggling bodies; they snuggle into cute cocoons, and then, pure theatrical magic, they transform into gorgeous butterflies. “Was worm, swaddled in white … is queen!”

I just have time to ask 4-yr-old Cassius what he expects will happen. “I have a wide open mind,” he tells me. He will not be disappointed. Brilliant director/ designer Thomas Monckton and Kallo Collective have fashioned a little nature lesson on the caterpillar’s life cycle into an utterly charming theatre experience for children, which delights adults as well, and has garnered awards and enthusiastic reviews.

The two performers, Thomas LaHood and Victoria Abbott, who work as clown doctors when they are at home in Wellington, are polished exponents of physical comedy.  Dressed in black with baggy bloomers, and tight hoods framing marvellously expressive faces, they deliver a mime show that is so professional it can smoothly employ pretended ineptitude for laughs.

The children adore them, especially when they play naughty tricks on each other, and chortle with delight at their sneakily competitive relationship. In fact the bouncy musical soundtrack is much enhanced by trills of live laughter throughout.

Once the chart demonstrating the life cycle has been shown, the actors arrange exuberant flowers, with fans to keep them in gentle movement (that is, until the splendid storm) while LaHood clumsily manipulates fat bumblebees to pollinate long-suffering Abbott, now a yellow flower.

The ever-growing eggs are fun, but it is the caterpillars we are waiting for, and they are all we could hope for: one short and stubby, the other orange and amazingly elongated, both with cute flopping feet and hungry mouths, exploring every movement possibility of their fabulous costumes with a fresh inventiveness that constantly surprises. 

Then it is time to farewell the caterpillars for the next stage of life, sigh, but another pleasure is in store as the caterpillars create their clever cocoons, not without a little more of the well-played jealousy quickly recognised and greatly enjoyed by the toddlers.

It may sound absurd, but as we wait for what will emerge from the chrysalis sacks, I find myself reminded of Beckett’s Act Without Words – the very simplicity of Caterpillars has wide open minds reflecting on deeper existential issues. No need for such pretension though; on every level this is a joyful, enriching experience, and the audience is wholly captivated.

The blue and yellow butterflies that eventually materialise are very pretty, but given the scale of the caterpillars, I would have liked the wings to be even bigger and more spectacular. The little ones are well satisfied however, 5-yr-old Krystal telling me the butterflies are her favourite part, and altogether the imaginative design and practical execution of the props and costumes are outstanding. The sole crew member offers sterling support, and it seems there is nothing that can’t be achieved with bendy metal poles and colourful crepe paper.

Caterpillars is undoubtedly totally bewitching theatre. Educational too, for if the kids can’t afford Otago Museum’s butterfly house, they’re sure to be off hunting a fat fuzzy caterpillar to tickle its way across their palm. For now, though, those palms are needed for excited and well deserved applause. 


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Perfect for the youngsters

Review by Kirsty van Rijk 01st Nov 2015

The toughest audience has to be one made up of children. Adults recognise a gag and will laugh, even if it isn’t funny simply for good manners sake, kids won’t. If they are not laughing, gasping or shouting in delight, it isn’t working. Caterpillars works. My young companion belly laughs throughout. Kids are great readers of expression and body language. The mimed slapstick conflicts between the two characters, or puppeteering pair’s awkward dances and embarrassing errors, are read easily (and appreciated) by the mostly 4 to 10 year old crowd. And the older ones too: I laugh. And why not? Puppets are fun.

The puppets and costumes (which won Best Costume and Best of Theatre at the 2015 Auckland Fringe) are clever, appear simple but are far from simplistic.  The two puppeteers manage the audience with ease, although small companion becomes a little sluggish itself when the caterpillars appear, the human puppeteers are “more funny,” apparently. I like the caterpillars.

I like the show and, at just under 45 minutes, it is perfect for the youngsters there: the life cycle of a butterfly described in a delightful, creative and very human way.


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Sweet, tantalising and elusive

Review by Finn and Lexie Matheson 15th Jul 2015

In the car travelling over Auckland Harbour Bridge we talked about what a cool experience seeing shows at the Bruce Mason Centre is and how pleasant the staff always are. We agreed that the last show we actually saw in that venue was The Gruffalo and that was quite a while ago so revisiting would be fun. The publicity for the show said that we would be actually sitting on the stage to view the show and that, we agreed, would be an exciting new experience too.

Having collected our tickets we enter the auditorium which is quite dimly lit and we immediately see that the promotional material is accurate: the seating is on the flat area of the stage and it consists of attractively coloured deckchairs and loads of beanbags and cushions. There is already a good sized audience in the theatre, mostly bubbly kids many of whom have their faces strikingly adorned with sparkly butterfly motifs created by the face-painters in the foyer. Most of the audience are under-fives while many of the caregivers seem to be in the grandparent age group which seems the norm for shows pitched, as this one is, at age two and above. 

The set consists of three half oval screens covered in a variety of different fabrics, one a sky blue paisley, another yellow with gold stripes and the last a plaid in deep red. It’s simple but effective and we wonder what delights these screens hide. 

We don’t have long to wait. The show starts with the sound of objects crashing behind the screens and two black-clad characters appear. They’re simple folk, puppeteers, and at times not very good ones which, of course, the kids love. Don’t get me wrong, they’re intentional buffoons and the things that go wrong are carefully and effectively choreographed to draw excited squeals from the young (and not so young) audience.

The two performers are dressed like ninja’s, all in black with hoods, but their baggy shorts give them away as possibly clownish characters and so it transpires they are.

What unfolds is a delicately told but wordless narrative based on the life cycle of the butterfly, illustrated from start to finish in the most extraordinarily imaginative ways possible. It starts with the actors holding up a scroll and pointing to each of the stages – egg, larvae (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis) and adult – and turning it into a magical chant.

While this is happening we get to know a bit about the puppeteers and we learn that they’re very competitive. The girl (Victoria Abbott) seems the more competent of the two characters and the moustachioed boy (Thomas LaHood) certainly has some very good knock-about comedy in the early part of the show. Giant, colourful poppies are produced and a storm plays havoc with them. The stem of one of the flowers breaks and much laughter is the result as the puppeteers try to re-connect the two wayward pieces. 

The competitive nature of each of the characters is further revealed as they each produce a series of eggs of ever increasing size until the eggs completely envelope the actors. We await the inevitable moment when the caterpillars emerge into the world for the very first time.

The girl caterpillar emerges first and the impact is breath-taking. It’s a great costume, short, stubby and green with multiple legs, but the appearance of the boy caterpillar, a lanky, orange, multi-legged specimen, eclipses even this. They are fantastical yet quite believable in that their patterns of movement replicate those of real world caterpillars. It’s hard to remember that each has a human being inside.  

There is some great business with bumble bees that keep popping – or getting popped – by Mr LaHood and the kids absolutely love the way the caterpillars, and in particular the orange one (Mr LaHood again), eat everything in their path including the giant poppies. It’s a treat, in more ways than one.

In a show riddled with the most creative devices, the notion of using pup tents as caterpillar chrysalises is perhaps the best of all. They replicate perfectly the shape of the real thing and cleverly maintain the size ratio already established for the audience. 

As time passes, autumn and winter are beautifully created by Abbott and LaHood using the simplest of devices: a working electric fan, two small, hand-held buckets full of paper leaves along with some really effective acting and suddenly the stage is populated by swirling leaves and winter tents heralding the arrival of two beautiful butterflies, one orange and one blue. 

There are many special moments during the fifty minute presentation but none better than when the caterpillars advance, in semi-sinister fashion, on the audience and half the children immediately rise from their cushions and head back a row or two to caregivers on deck chairs. There’s no fear and no tears, just an immediate healthy response, and it’s to the credit of these two excellent performers that there is never a hint of anxiety from any of the kids even in the storm scene, during the emergence of the giant caterpillars or during the delectable changes of the seasons.

Every moment is sweet, tantalising and elusive and the result is children’s theatre of the very best quality. This is exemplified by a Miss Three-years-old who, tentative at the beginning, moves to the front of the stage about 20 minutes in, turns to her Mum seated behind her in the darkness and whispers, “See, Mum, I’m not scared anymore.”

No surprise, then, to find that these are two highly trained and richly experienced performers. Victoria Abbott, a graduate of Toi Whakaari, trained in Paris with the master of inventive theatre Philippe Gaulier and at the Corporeal School of Mime in London. She also works as a Clown Doctor in hospitals and it’s hard to imagine any more satisfying work that that.  Thomas LaHood is a graduate of the prestigious Bonts International Clown School in Ibiza and he also works as a clown doctor at Wellington Public Hospital: perhaps the perfect context for learning how to entertain and amuse children.  

The whole shebang is made possible by the genius of director Thomas Monckton, a resident of Paris, currently engaged in creating cross-genre contemporary theatre and circus as well as touring a number of self-devised international solo and collaborative performances. He must have had the most fun in the world working on this delightful show with such talented actors.

Cornelia Funke in The Thief Lord suggests “children are caterpillars and adults are butterflies. No butterfly,” she says, “ever remembers what it felt like being a caterpillar.” If you fear this may be even half true of you, reclaim your childhood innocence with a visit to Caterpillars. Take a few small relatives, you will never regret it.


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Wordless ingenuity and fun

Review by John Smythe 07th Mar 2015

How better to represent the lifecycle of the butterfly than with a couple of clowns? Not your red-nosed, face-painted, fright-wigged, baggy costumed, floppy shod circus clowns (no fear of Coulrophobia here). 

Victoria Abbott and Thomas Thomas LaHood, working with their director, the incomparable Thomas Monckton, bring a wonderfully subtle clowning sensibility to Caterpillars. Children instantly relate to it and adults love it just as much.

Clad in hooded black lycra like ninja puppeteers, they get their first laughs from discovering the audience (a classic gag) and from their subsequent attempts to pretend we can’t see them while they complete their preparations. When they are ‘on’ they are ‘on’ in grand style, presenting for our education and delectation a beautifully drawn lifecycle picture (except the leaf needs more prominent white spots – i.e. eggs – on it, to links with what happens later).

Initially it’s Abbott who more-or-less has her act together while LaHood stuffs up – and thoroughly enjoys the discoveries he makes in the process. Later the tables are turned. The audience is delighted when a ‘mistake’ morphs into a routine. 

Colour soon festoons the bare stage in the shape of flowers, wafting in a fan-forced breeze that whips up a storm. Are flowers part of the lifecycle? Well what else will a hungry caterpillar eat? But first we get the eggs: an amusingly competitive sequence of bigger and better ones that soon sees the actors encased.

The emergence of a green caterpillar is truly magical and Abbott imbues it with a wonderfully endearing personality. Her devouring of the egg skin is wonderfully done and her red tongue is as delicious as what it licks. It’s amazing how much feeling can be conveyed from within a heavily padded concertinaed tube.

The taller orange caterpillar (LaHood) is a ravenously single-minded slinky whose gyrations and contortions defy logic. Together they complement and counterpoint each other, behaving just as siblings or cousins might.

Originating from the Kallo Collective’s base in Finland (they also operate in France, as well as NZ), the costumes by Rauko and the props are superbly conceived and constructed.

There is more ingenuity in manifesting the seasons – with a simple device that a boy behind me declares has produced his favourite bit. And so to the cocoon stage – achieved, one may cryptically quip, with intent. It’s their journey more than their inevitable destiny that animates Caterpillars’ fifty-odd minutes of wordless fun.

While two show today have been their only public performances, Caterpillars will play for schools audiences as part of the Capital Arts Festival Junior Week from 9-13 March. We have to hope there will be more chances for the general public to see it in future. 

[In the interests of full disclosure, Thomas LaHood is my nephew. He has recently refreshed my understanding and personal practice of clowning principles.]


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Comedy Metamorphosis

Review by Tim George 20th Feb 2015

Caterpillars is a story with two tales. On one level, it is meant to be an imaginative, artistic, and yes, somewhat pretentious art piece evoking the life cycle of a butterfly through a combination of puppetry and music. On another level it is the story of how two hapless puppeteers can completely screw it up.

Comedy spoofs work best when they are taken dead seriously. And the two performers in Caterpillars take their work very seriously indeed. Even as the show collapses around them, they perform each set piece with a deer-in-the-headlights intensity that is somehow rather poignant. [More


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Slightly absurd, totally creative and finally uplifting

Review by Vanessa Byrnes 20th Feb 2015

Created by Thomas Monckton and Kallo Collective, this charming and clever show is a gem. 

Not one verbal word is spoken, but throughout its 50 minutes the two performers – Thomas LaHood and Victoria Abbott – leave us entranced with their ingenious way of telling the supposedly simple story of a caterpillar’s life cycle. It’s beautifully produced (by Show Pony) and would be a standout for kids and adults alike.

My 11-year old companion and I are unsure how this narrative about can maintain suspension of disbelief for the span of a show, but with a healthy dose of imagination it does just that. Clad only in head-to-toe black bodysuits and velvet rompers (?!), our intrepid performers entice our imaginations and inspire a unique perspective with their witty, unique take on this process of metamorphosis. Who knew that ‘Lepidoptera’ (the insect order comprising butterflies and moths) were such entertaining creatures? 

Colour peppers the show. Tissue paper, balloons, bamboo, pop-up tents and two categorically fabulous caterpillar costumes bring to life the comedy and tragedy of this life cycle. These guys are just like us; driven by core objectives and simple needs that don’t always get satisfied.

The characters are witty, slightly gormless, wonderfully self-aware and very funny. The actors are quirky, grounded and accessible. There’s a touch of John Cleese about the ‘physical’ comedy and some clever corporeal mime skills at work.

The execution of Caterpillars is charming, and the whole thing is slightly absurd. My companion and I leave the show feeling uplifted by total creativity of it. Really worth seeing; one to inspire the very young and old alike.


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