Kiwi Moon

Capital E, Wellington

08/03/2008 - 05/04/2008

Production Details

Kiwi Moon is a heart-warming New Zealand tale of a Kiwi’s journey of self discovery, based on Gavin Bishop’s touching story.

A little white kiwi is puzzled about where he fits in – because he doesn’t blend into his environment like his mother.

In fact in the bold light of the moon he stands out even more. Maybe the moon is his mother because it is white and bright and round like him?

This new show is a delight for young audiences with its enchanting blend of 3D and shadow puppetry, music and performance.

Meet the Kiwi Moon puppets after the 6pm shows on Saturday March 15, 22 and 29. This is an unique opportunity to get up close to a Kiwi! 

Sat 8 March -2pm. Sat 15, 22 & 29 March – 11am, 2pm, 6pm. Sat 5 April 11am & 2pm  
Special performances Easter Monday 24 March and Tuesday 25 March 10am & 11.30am

VENUE: Capital E McKenzie Theatre  

PRICE: $10.50 per person. $38 family of four. $8.50 per person groups of 10 or more. Under two’s free

BOOKINGS: 04 913-3720  

Murray Lynch (dramaturgy)
Laughton Patrick (musical director)
Debz Ruffell (shadow puppets)
Apirana Taylor (haka composer)
Thomas Press (composer)
Sue Hill (puppet design and creation)
Marcus McShane (lighting) 
John Hodgkins (set design)

50 min, no interval

Cute Kiwi’s quest for survival gets fearfully exciting

Review by John Smythe 18th Mar 2008

In 2005 Capital E produced a stunning adaptation of Gavin Bishop’s Hinepau (suitable for ages 8-12), about the trials of being different for a green-eyed, red-headed wahine whose weaving is inside out. Now, for ages 2-7, they offer Bishop’s Kiwi Moon, about the trials of being different for a little white kiwi.  

Adapted and directed by Peter Wilson and designed by John Hodgkins, with puppets designed and created by Sue Hill and shadow puppets by Debz Ruffell, it is true to the book in key respects. Where Bishop suggests the daytime activities of humans in pictorial panels tucked in around the text and images of the substantive story, the dramatised version uses a sun to tell us it’s day and shadow puppets in stylised settings to depict tribal warfare, the felling of trees, the land wars, the death of a chief, a tangi …

And before the main story starts, the theatrical conventions of the show are established with a shadow puppet prologue that expands on a verse at the end of Bishop’s book, to take us from prehistory to early settler times. Bishop wrote:

March and April
May and June
I can see you, Kiwi Moon
Will you make my wish come true
If I count to ten for you

I presume it is Wilson who adds the seven new verses. Here are the last four:

Seven was when it first began
The flight of Kiwi as he ran
From men with taiaha and fire
From dogs and rats and danger dire.

Eight was when the pakeha
Came in boats with sails and guns
They brought sheep, cows, goats,
Soldiers dressed in fine red coats.

Ten was when they fought for land
They chopped and burned and cleared
And soon no song or sound of bird
No sound or song was heard.

No longer did they sing their song
But wished instead for peace to come.
No longer did they sing their song
But wished instead for peace to come 

It is into this state of the nation that the Little White Kiwi is born. Its hatching is quite a production number, and delightful too in its skilful use of rod puppetry.  It’s not long before she realises she’s different and starting to see the moon, Marama, as her mother …

Anya Tate-Manning goes on to give a full range of emotions and a distinct personality to the Little Kiwi puppet. Will Harris is the voice and main operator of Marama the moon, Joanne Murphy of the brown Kiwi (who is probably the white one’s mother, although the alien whiteness distances her somewhat) and James Conway-Law of the clownish Kakapo.

As well as the shadow puppets we see huhu grubs, a mangy dog (kuri) and a little lost Settler Girl. All the puppeteer/ performers work tirelessly together with well choreographed precision to create the illusions and tell the story of the cute Little Kiwi’s quest for survival in an often strange and sometimes dangerous world.

The Kuri’s attack on the Brown Kiwi allows the Little Kiwi a heroic moment – rolling into a moon-like ball to scare the dog away – the confronts us with mortality and grieving before allowing us the respite of recovery. All very well judged, I felt.

I do have some quibbles, however. Why does Marama say “Goodnight” to the Kiwi when it and the Kiwi retire at daybreak (it’s not in the book)? Saying “Good day Little Kiwi” at bedtime would be more fun for the kids (who are far too young to remember the Goodnight Kiwi, if that’s the gag).

Depicting soldiers shooting a Māori Chief in a back (also not in the book) is a serious accusation and an unfortunate image to implant in impressionable minds. Certainly the land wars were not always ‘clean fights’ but most histories – including my own ancestor’s eye-witness journal – suggest the “soldiers dressed in fine red coats” had a professional respect for their adversaries and both sides generally adhered to their basic, if different, codes of war.

But the sequence that follows, where the birds are in fear of warriors out to get feathers for the tangi cloak, is a thrilling piece of theatre, the moreso for not being sugar coated. Likewise the bush fire sequence is fearfully exciting. And the ending (which is in the book) where the Little Kiwi finally leaps into the arms of Marama, its surrogate father/mother Moon, is fanciful.

Bishop’s book resolves itself as a relatively modern myth that might make us look at the moon a different way, seeing it as a curled Kiwi rather than the face of a man. To that Wilson has added a sense that the Kiwi has escaped the conflict of war, and won’t return until there is peace.

Perhaps teachers who work with the resource kits Capital E provides, and follow through with the children who see it, may wish to comment.

Quibbles aside, this is high quality theatre for children and a great asset for the country.


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Happy fusion of skills and styles make for excellent entertainment

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 18th Mar 2008

I, along with the rest of the audience, was surprised and amused to be told, after the usual warning to switch off my cell-phone, to relax, wave my hands above my head and wriggle my bottom like a huhu grub before Kiwi Moon, the delightful new show at Capital E, started.

A lot of top local theatrical talent has been used in the making of Kiwi Moon, Gavin Bishop’s picture book for children: Murray Lynch (dramaturgy), Laughton Patrick (musical director), Debz Ruffell (shadow puppets), Apirana Taylor (haka composer), Thomas Press (composer), Sue Hill (puppet design and creation), Marcus McShane (lighting) and John Hodgkins (set design).

Director Peter Wilson has brought all their skills together in a happy fusion of theatrical styles so that the story of an albino kiwi surviving in the bush with the help of an older, bush-wise kiwi, who may or may not be the albino’s mum and Marama, the moon, shining serenely in the night sky.

Beautiful and wonderfully colorful shadow puppetry is used to show the bush and the bird life before the arrival of Māori, who are shown arriving in waka, and then the Pakeha settlers building houses and felling the forest. The Land Wars are shown briefly too but to what point I’m not sure except to explain that human life is as dangerous as life in the bush for the kiwi.

The bunraku-styled puppets for the two kiwis, the huhu grubs, a boastful kakapo and a ferocious kuri are expertly handled by the almost invisible James Conway-Law, Will Harris, Joanne Murphy, and Anya Tate-Manning.

There is a lot of humour in the show (the hatching of the kiwi egg and the dance of huhu grubs just two examples) as well as some serious moments such the bush fire and the kuri’s attack on the older kiwi. This last scene had the youngest members of the audience suddenly needing their parents’ arms around them.

What is so exciting about Kiwi Moon is not only that it is excellent entertainment and as good an introduction to theatre for the young as you’ll find in the country but also it is clearly evident that talent and money have been spent on children’s theatre.


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