Kia Ora Khalid

BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

31/01/2024 - 03/02/2024

Six Degrees Festival 2024

Production Details

Original Writer: Dave Armstrong
Original Composer: Gareth Farr
Stage Director & Creative Lead: Ditas Yap
Music Director: Jo Hodgson

Showtime New Zealand

Heart-pounding children’s opera Kia Ora Khalid tells how four migrant children came to Aotearoa New Zealand. Tom – a Polish New Zealander; Serena – a Samoan; Trang – a first generation Cambodian; and Khalid – a Tampa refugee from Afghanistan. Their stories reveal the touching story of 700 Polish refugees landing in the country in the 1940s, the troubled world of Cambodia, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A musical journey over continents and world history, Kia Ora Khalid displays educational values, creates socio-political awareness, and increases New Zealanders’ sense of understanding and acceptance of migrants finding refuge in New Zealand.

Originally commissioned by Capital E National Theatre for Children and created by acclaimed composer Gareth Farr and award-winning playwright Dave Armstrong, Kia Ora Khalid premiered at the Taranaki Arts Festival in 2011, and later made its Australian debut at the Victoria Arts Centre, Melbourne, Australia in October 2011. This time around, it will be recreated for Victoria University of Wellington’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Programme, directed by Filipino postgraduate student Ditas Yap , under the supervision of MFA Theatre Programme Director Kerryn Palmer, with Jo Hodgson as Music Director.

Performed by a cast of 16 young people aged 10 to 19 from various schools in Wellington, Kia ora Khalid will feature shadow play, live children’s art, and music.

Presented under a licensing agreement with Playmarket.

BATS Theatre, ‘The Stage’
31st January – 3rd February,
Book online at

Production Managers: DYLAN MATTHEW & ALEX DIXON
Stage Manager - EMORY OTTO
Marketing & Publicity - DENNIS EIR LIM
Marketing Assistant - WHEY GUECO
Lighting Designer - SENUKA SUDUSINGHE & RITA ANDERSON (child)
Sound Designer - JOSHUA LEES
Sound Operator - AKSHAT SONDHI

Felix McDougall
Phoebe Lowe
Jet Wilton
Eva Wilton
Isabella Fouhy
Will Anderson
Olivia Chevallier-Boutell
Maddy Bond
Sophie Bond
Scout Ballantyne
Ari Cradwick

Children’s , Theatre , Musical ,

60 minutes

The audience takes every hit in the heart during this incredible opera

Review by Talia Carlisle 02nd Feb 2024

Loud chanting and shrieks of laughter echo the nearby school playground, where tiny feet thud in rhythm on the concrete hopscotch floor.

The clanging of a netball hoop rings in our ears, announcing our opening night performance of Kia Ora Khalid has begun.

We are now immersed in the Six Degrees Festival by Victoria University of Wellington. But really we are on a journey around the world faced by many migrants and refugees, that will make our own home look different upon our return.

Comprised of 16 student actors aged 10-19 and a live band, Kia Ora Khalid is also a celebration of the incredible energy and heart that children bring to the world, and to the theatre. Their tireless hard work and determination proves to us that, like migrants and refugees, they deserve to be here.

The ability to bring out their overwhelming talent in this dynamic children’s opera is a honed skill of experienced stage director and creative lead Ditas Yap.

Ditas has 20 years’ experience directing children’s musicals in the Philippines, prior to her taking on a Masters of Fine Art in theatre here in Wellington. The Masters is the catalyst of this fine-tuned opera, reprised from a commissioned work by Capital E National Theatre for Children which premiered in 2009.

We are introduced to Ditas by her supervisor and youth theatre champion Kerryn Palmer, a mentor for so many of Wellington’s growing theatre professionals. I can’t wait to see the careers of these bright performers continue to grow on stage, aided by this experience of working with Wellington’s best and beyond.

Our esteemed creators are composer Gareth Farr and playwright Dave Armstrong, whose collaboration of complicated themes blend effortlessly, helped by their long-standing friendship and talent, grown themselves over record-spanning careers.

There’s no doubt our young cast are the real royalty here tonight, each singing, acting, and navigating complicated costume changes and choreography as they convey the stories of four students, four countries irreparably changed during their journey as refugees to a new life in New Zealand.

Spanning across Afghanistan, Cambodia, Samoa and Poland, their fight against discrimination and hate is more relevant now than ever, says playwright Dave Armstrong.

This compilation of stories would unlikely be written about now though, he says, in the aftermath of the 2019 Christchurch Mosque shootings at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre that have changed forever the beautiful country we call home.

I am in awe at the detail and commitment that has brought this show to life. Crucial is the masterful work of Dave and Gareth, to not only create these worlds with darkness and light, but in bringing these stories into our hearts and demanding we see the beauty, imperfections and inequalities that surround us, prodding us to demand more of ourselves and our country.

The original production relied on adult actors to play the leads, but it was Ditas’ idea for the young cast to take on these roles, each owning their characters, intertwined stories and four-part harmonies, even adding their own choreography and shadow dancing in parts.

The cast includes musician and actor Felix McDougall, with accompanying musicians Laura Stone and Nathan Parker led by musical director Jo Hodgson, who are so brilliant the music draws us into the characters’ world and you forget there’s a band at all.

No matter how many dark paths we ride or haunting melodies accompany us, the opera keeps an upbeat, energetic and uplifting safe space for the audience, thanks to its captivating performers. Each skilfully manoeuvres the high notes, dark themes and heartbreaking lyrics about family, war and discrimination faced everyday.

The technically demanding parts receive more than a believable and skilful performance from every young cast member. They also bring spirit. The characters are united by their shared experiences and unite the audience in the process. They remind us that every person, word and action can make a difference, for better or worse.

Kia ora Khalid sold out prior to opening but I already look forward to its return, and any future works by Gareth, Dave, Ditas and music director Jo Hodgson.

I am thankful to set creator Alistair Porter for ensuring every story is conveyed to the fullest ability, with impressive AV and shadow art by Isobel Beckit-Goodyear, stunning costumes by designer Emory Otto, and star-worthy lighting and sound designed by Senuka Sudusinghe – operated by Rita Anderson and Caleb O’Halloran respectively.

The audience takes every hit in the heart during this incredible opera, asking us to rethink what our home should be. I hope the stories within Kia Ora Khalid are retold and restaged often, and inspire our own stories to stay with us and be shared, just as proudly.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council