Little Andromeda, corner of Gloucester St and Colombo St, Christchurch

02/11/2019 - 05/11/2019

Christchurch Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, 2 Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch

11/04/2024 - 14/04/2024

Production Details

Director - Melanie Luckman

Cubbin Theatre Company

We’re visiting Nana today!  

What surprises has she got up her sleeve? Perhaps a magical stick, some dancing shoes, a special ribbon and a duck that goes… moo?

Joyful surprises are discovered alongside tender moments between a grandmother and her grandchild as they navigate a day together in this theatrical experience for preschoolers and their grownups.

Created from workshops with real grandparents in the Christchurch community, Me and My Nana is brought to life by Cubbin Theatre Company (Up and Away and Play Play). This lively story, told with clever props, simple language, live music and nostalgic tunes, celebrates the unique love children share with their grandparents.

Everyone is welcome to Me and My Nana. It has been created specially for children aged 1-5 and their grown-ups.

Cloisters Studio at Te Matatiki Toi Ora, The Arts Centre
Thursday 11 April – Sunday 14 April


Actors - Hannah Wheeler and Hester Ullyart
Musician - Amy Straker
Design - Cubbin Theatre Company

Theatre , Children’s ,

30 mins

Me and my Nana – an adorable story about very special relationship

Review by Erin Harrington 19th Apr 2024

Cubbin Theatre Company has spent the last six years developing thoughtful, well-designed performance works for that most under-served yet discerning of audiences: the very young. Me and My Nana is a warm and gentle work, designed for children aged one-five, that explores the special relationship between a kid (Hester Ullyart) and her grandmother (Hannah Wheeler) as they go exploring on a rainy day. Amy Straker provides music on guitar, offering dreamy, nostalgic takes on pop songs, including a particularly lovely cover of Split Enz’s ‘Stuff and Nonsense’.

Many potential theatregoers might associate work for the young with a sort of manic ‘it’s behind you’ energy, but Cubbin’s approach is calm and spacious. This allows curious pre-schoolers time to focus on and explore shifts and patterns in movement, colour, and sound. The small Cloisters Studio space at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora is bare except for a low seat draped in a colourful checked blanket, another seat for Straker, and three rectangular panels wrapped in colourful yarn mounted on the wall. The performers are dressed in muted tones of green, terracotta and blue.

The 30-minute performance begins with introductions, a clapping game, and a song; young ones are invited to engage as they like. The story itself is very sweet: child and grandmother draw pictures in condensation on the window, eat some treats, and prepare to head out into the rain. Through gentle, clown-like and mostly wordless beats the pair muck about with yellow slickers and gumboots, mud puddles and apples, sticks and worms, raindrops and rainbows. Younger audience members, cuddled up with their grownups (including many nanas) are utterly focused on the action. They squeal at grandma’s silliness, call out at what they are seeing, and narrate the action. Nana and kid head home to get warm; the performance ends with a song and the audience are invited outside for chats and cuddles. It’s adorable – kind, gentle, whimsical, a balm to the brain.

Me and My Nana is a show with so much heart, and a clear sense of joy and wonder. I arrived excited to see some theatre for the young, which I love in general. Soapbox moment: I think far more adults, with and without children, should go see works for kids. Go – it’s not weird, honestly. It will improve your life. A few minutes in, though, I’m unexpectedly quite overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings about my own broader family relationships, and childhood, in part as my last remaining grandparent looks to be rapidly approaching the end of her life. I intend to chat to some of the audience, to get some feedback from the target audience, but instead have to go have a cup of tea and take a moment. Oops.

Cubbin Theatre Company is staging their 2024 season, made up of four performance works (including the lovely Up and Away), at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora – which is currently facing a catastrophic funding crisis that could undermine its ability to support work like this. I wrote the other day, about a very different but similarly joyful show, that the arts, which is often relegated to ‘entertainment’, offers an essential and very human service. Here, young people with developing brains are offered love and care, and a storytelling experience that honours their worldview without being patronising or overwhelming, in a space designed just for them. If that’s not worth supporting, even saving, then I don’t know what is.

Originally published on Flat City Field Notes and reproduced with permission.


John Smythe April 19th, 2024

Enter, to go in Tain, to hold Hence anything that draws you in and holds your attention is entertainment.

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Gentle, whimsical and wholesome

Review by Emily Mowbray-Marks 04th Nov 2019

When I was asked to review Cubbin Theatre Company’s Me and My Nana within Little Andromeda’s Festival, I leapt at the opportunity to experience this pop-up ingenious theatre venue, downtown Otautahi (Christchurch).

It’s Saturday morning. Solomon (5 years young) and I gobble down homemade crepes, yogurt and maple syrup before jumping in the people-mover, negotiating the traffic, hunting for a carpark. Tick. Scoot in a panic (we’re cutting it fine for this 10 am start time) over the Avon River, to sniff out this temporary theatre venue behind Amazonita’s on Oxford Tce – Little Andromeda. Tick.

We arrive at a foyer full of very short people (as tall as my knee, mostly) accompanied by some people as tall and creased as me, and a whole lot more ‘silver’ ones. There’s a queue of buggies lined up, black, safe and serious along a wall.

These very short people are rocking a keg on the concrete floor, tipping out the contents of a toy box, making some occasional squawking sounds. The most entertaining short person is performing a Toi Whakaari-esque vocal warm up, running back and forth and rhythmically along an imaginary metre long line, ahhhhhhhing on pitch.

Amy, one of the musicians, enters the slightly squawky foyer. She’s kind. Assures all caregivers to come and go from the performance space as required. We’re directed to the whereabouts of the water closets and the change mat in oppositional corners. I can feel the parents and grandparents relax, we’re being taken care of.

There are Nanas in this audience. It’s a popular show, with practically a full house. One group of 11 (Playcentre parents?) file into the row Solomon has chosen for us, up the back.

The theatre is good. Simple. Plenty of scaffolding makes our tiered seating and the lighting rig. Plenty of lights. The technicians are sitting behind us – theatre of the transparent. Something created out of nothing, using an empty city space (amidst suave food joints) and slogging it out to bring the people of Christchurch some fresh, sometimes edgy, genuinely youthful performance. I think about what vision and joie de vivre we possess when we’re less ‘creased’ or ‘silver’.

There’s a cast of four. Women. Their colour palette of costume acts as set and props. Dressed in organic hues, cotton Ts and long pants. One in delphinium blue.
One in pumpkin. One violet. T’other leek green.

In the background sits the promise of wonder – guitars, a snare and a ukulele tucked in behind.
“My grand-ma and your grand-ma
  Were sittin’ by the fire.
  My grand-ma told your grand-ma
  I’m gonna set your flag on fire …”
The women, colours of Nana’s garden, use their bodies for percussion and sing ‘Iko Iko’ in a horseshoe shape downstage, with edible harmonies. We’re off, on an adventure with Nana.

I think my Mum should be here. Solomon’s Nana. I think what a great show to take to schools, and to invite their Nanas, their Omas, their Nannies, their Grammies, their Grandmas, their Danis. Whanau – whanaungatanga – we value it.

Solomon is standing the entire time, leaning softly into my seated self, peering through the silver crowns in front of us. Sometimes he goes on tiptoes other times he calls out when asked for suggestions. He is enraptured. The show finishes after 35 minutes-ish and he asks, ‘Can we stay here for another one?’

Me and My Nana is a musical. There’s song. There’s dance. There’s a love story between a Nana and her moko. There’s even a poignant ending as our two musicians, Amy and Bryony, sing Split Enz’s ‘Stuff & Nonsense’:
“And you know that I love you,
  Here and now, not forever.
  I can give you the present,
  I don’t know ’bout the future,
  That’s all stuff and nonsense.”

It’s tenderly directed by Melanie Luckman with the right amount of music, puppetry, play and magic.  Me and My Nana is gentle, whimsical and wholesome – everything one would want for a show designed for under 5s, including the perfect length.

The actors playing Nana and grand-daughter play with intelligence, heart and authenticity. There’s no ham or cheesiness here. Eloise Pengelly plays the grand-daughter, pitching her ‘child-ish-ness’ perfectly (a hard thing to do). Hannah Wheeler is Nana. There’s a magic moment when Nana and grand-daughter hug, in profile to the audience, and we see the immense aroha and comfort in the grins and closed eyes. We all think of our Nanas and her bossomy woolley-probably fragrant hug. I think of the therapeutic nature of the theatre, its elixir, to bring memories and love to the surface.

The songs, strums and snare of the two musicians, Amy Straker and Bryony Matthews, act mostly as a soundtrack. At times the soaring voices are so sweet we have to look beyond the actors to these songbirds. Oh to sing like that, to offer such gifts.

A pleasant surprise is the audience’s ‘heckling’. Mimicry. The character Nana coughs, an audience toddler coughs in empathy or solidarity. Nana makes a game out of turning a yellow raincoat back the right way (I want one of those mustard yellow raincoats!). Her hand becomes the hand puppet of a duck. “Quack,” she says.
“We saw a baby duckie.”
“Guck,” are some of the earnest responses.

Solomon (5 years-young) and I (much older) immensely enjoy Me and My Nana, and we’ll be looking to take Nana, Grammy or Dani next time. 


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