Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

19/04/2016 - 30/04/2016

Production Details

Written by Jessica Hammond
Director: Julie O’Brien
Musical Director: Michael Stebbings

Kapitall Kids' Theatre

Kiwiman and Robin to the rescue! Meet your friendly neighborhood heroes!  

Kiwiman and Robin tells the story of friendship, and how all of us, no matter who or what we are, can be heroes.

Robin and her brother Tui, live in Wellington, somewhere near Zealandia. They have beautiful kowhai trees in their back yard where a robin has her nest of eggs. Until one day an evil possum threatens the nest and its contents! The entrance of Kiwiman (half man, half kiwi, all posing) and shy, stamp collecting Boar adds to the day’s chaos. 

Musical theatre performer and director Julie O’Brien applies her international performance experience to New Zealand playwright Jessica Hammond’s energetic, fun-filled show, which was shortlisted in Playmarket’s Plays for the Young competition in 2013. 

Join in the songs and actions along with Robin and her pals and discover the meaning of friendship, and protecting the beautiful native species of New Zealand.

Gryphon Theatre, 21 Ghuznee Street 
19th – 30th April
11am and 1pm weekdays
11am only on Saturdays.
1pm only on Anzac Day.
No show on Sundays.
$10 / $9 for groups of 10+
BOOKINGS: / 04 934 4068

Flora Lloyd
Richard Dansan
Jonathan Beresford
Darryn Woods

Theatre , Family , Children’s , Musical ,

A lively show to stimulate play

Review by John Smythe 19th Apr 2016

Dynamically directed by Julie O’Brien, playwright Jessica Hammond’s well-crafted Kiwiman and Robin is a splendid addition to the plethora of children’s theatre on offer in Wellington these holidays. It may be a little too pun-laden for some tastes – they are way over the heads of the pre-schoolers and infants at the premiere – but they do tickle the fancies of a couple of adults and older children may enjoy them too.

In their white picket-fenced back yard, “bird nerds” Robin (Flora Lloyd) and her brother Tui (Richard Danan) discover their tree contains a nest in which a rare Black Robin has laid three eggs. Actually Robin discovers it and Tui’s habit of not listening properly to her, while acting all superior because he works at the Zealandia sanctuary, is frustrating for her.

The action revolves around the need to protect the eggs, especially from the cunning and conniving Aussie interloper Possum (Jonathan Beresford). When ‘Rockin Robin’s rendition of ‘I Need a Hero’ wakes a somnambulant Kiwiman (Darryn Woods), what we usually expect by way of super-heroics do not seem to be on offer, despite his claim that he can “leap tall poppies in a single bound”.

Aware that he needs a sidekick, Kiwiman is blind to Robin’s eagerness to fill the role until he finally thinks of it. And of course he still claims leader status despite her clearly being more alert to what’s going on. 

Strangely needing a ladder to climb the tree, and having fallen off it, Possum also needs an assistant. But will a timid, stamp-collecting Boar (Dansan) – cue more puns – fill the bill?

Audience participation is judiciously requested and given, although no-one is there to deliver the crucial cue when it most matters. Is this a flaw or are they hoping audiences will take the initiative and wake Kiwiman without being counted in? This first audience doesn’t. There is another moment when – in pursuit of a fart joke – the now vocal audience has to be ignored until the prescribed action catches up with it.

Having taken the trouble to set up the typically male marginalisation of Robin by Tui and Kiwiman, I’m surprised that the climactic vanquishing of Possum is not her salutary moment of glory but seems to be achieved by the sudden addition of another masked stranger who turns out to be her brother, Tui. The point that anyone can be a hero, and the more the better, may be nice and inclusive but it happens at the expense of a key payoff, I feel.

No prizes for guessing my major gripe. Yes, yet again, despite the specifically Kiwi (and Aussie) characterisations, the songs are sung with American accents. Even Kiwiman – who manages an Elvis-like persona without delivering dialogue in an American accent (how weird would that be!) defaults to rhyming past and fast with mashed, and tells us at the end not to waste out ‘tarm’. I realise Lloyd and Dasan were steeped in American musicals when training but that’s no reason to resist the challenge of bringing authentic Kiwi voices to stories like this.

Given so much of what kids consume on screen is American, I claim it’s essential that live theatre created and set in New Zealand proactively proves the Kiwi voice is just as valid. Many performers have proved its possible – and a positive point of difference what’s more.

That said, the songs are strongly delivered (Musical Director Michael Stebbings) and everyone is exuberantly equal to Kira Josephson’s splendid choreography. The audience also enjoys the opportunity to learn and perform a routine.

Overall, then, Kiwiman and Robin is a lively show that will undoubtedly stimulate the sort of games kids may play with each other. 


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