Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

27/09/2014 - 11/10/2014

Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

19/04/2014 - 03/05/2014

Production Details

Written by Pamela Allen
Directed by Dave Brown

Capital E National Theatre for Children presents a Patch Theatre Company production

Jumping onto Wellington’s theatre scene, Mr McGee & the Biting Flea premieres in New Zealand at the Hannah Playhouse this April.

Award-winning children’s author, Pamela Allen’s stories are brought to life for New Zealand audiences, in the April school holidays, emerging from dozens of suitcases and crates, as three curious warehouse workers transform a storeroom into an enchanting miracle of music and play.

Capital E National Theatre for Children presents the New Zealand premiere of Patch Theatre Company’s Mr McGee & the Biting Flea at the new-look Hannah Playhouse this April school holiday. Proudly supported by Classic Hits, this uniquely imaginative production brings Pamela Allen’s stories to sweet music-infused life.

Capital E’s Creative Producer, Stephen Blackburn says, “We are excited to bring Mr McGee & the Biting Flea to the New Zealand stage for the first time and to provide New Zealand’s young people with the opportunity to experience such a well acclaimed international production.”

“We are also honoured to welcome Patch Theatre Company’s artistic director, Dave Brown to New Zealand to direct this fantastic piece of theatre.”

Described as “a simple, elegant valentine to theatrical imagination,” Mr McGee and the Biting Flea, embarks on a 15 venue national tour throughout New Zealand following its two-week public season at the Hannah Playhouse.

Mr McGee and the Biting Flea’s talented cast, led by Dave Brown, are all graduates from two of New Zealand’s most highly acclaimed Drama schools. Whitney Channings hales from the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art in Christchurch and both Jack Buchanan and Tom Knowles are graduates of Toi Whakaari, New Zealand Drama School in Wellington. Together this ensemble cast of three beautifully capture the magic and enchantment of this world of quirky characters and stories.

“I am so excited to be a part of Capital E’s national tour,” says Buchanan, “and to be part of a critically acclaimed production by Patch Theatre Company that opens up a whole new world of theatre to children.”

Prepare to be mesmerised and enchanted this April school holiday with this wonderful theatrical encounter ideal for 2-7 yr olds.

Mr McGee and the Biting Flea
Hannah Playhouse in Wellington
19 April – 3rd May;
to make a booking visit
or call 04 913 3740.
To book tickets for the Wellington education season, 7-16 May, call 04 913 3742 or visit

Mr McGee and the Biting Flea –return season

Back by popular demand, Mr McGee & the Biting Flea plays its final Wellington shows this school holiday

“Now we are looking forward to bringing this delightful show back to our Wellington home for one last time before finishing off a very successful New Zealand premiere by touring the South Island,” explains Creative Producer, Stephen Blackburn.

Mr McGee and the Biting Flea’s talented cast, led by director Dave Brown, are graduates from two of New Zealand’s most highly acclaimed Drama schools. Whitney Channings, a graduate of the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art in Christchurch and Jack Buchanan and Tom Knowles, graduates of Toi Whakaari, New Zealand Drama School in Wellington.

“It has been a real thrill to be part of this critically acclaimed production that opens up a whole new world of theatre to children,” says Buchanan.

Bringing to life Pamela Allen favourites such as Mr McGee and Brown Bread and Honey for audiences has been an incredibly memorable experience.”

Prepare to be mesmerised and enchanted with this wonderful theatrical encounter ideal for 2-7 yr olds.

Mr McGee and the Biting Flea will be playing at
The Hannah Playhouse in Wellington
27 Sept – 11 Oct;
to make a booking visit call 04 913 3740.

Hold on to the magic of Mr McGee & the Biting Flea at Capital E’s Book Bazaar on Queens Wharf, where stories from the show come to life through activities, workshops and more.

Whitney Channings
Jack Buchanan
Tom Knowles

Theatre , Family , Children’s ,

First-rate, road-tested, children’s entertainment

Review by Tama Smith 28th Sep 2014

It’s another school holiday, and you’re on the hunt for imaginative adventures to get the kids out and about in Wellington. 

Look no further than Mr McGee & the Biting Flea, a wonderful theatrical romp through a collection of stories from New Zealand Order of Merit author Pamela Allen.

Back by popular demand, this show – an associate production between Adelaide’s Patch Theatre Company and Capital E National Theatre for Children – is a Hannah Playhouse homecoming, after extensive touring of the North Island. 

The cast of three (Whitney Channings, Jack Buchanan and Tom Knowles) deliver bold and enthusiastic performances, seamlessly interweaving their storytelling responsibilities with synchronised movements, impressive harmonising and audience interactions. They demonstrate the confidence of a seasoned group of actors, maximising the entertainment of every moment and, with direction from Patch Theatre’s Dave Brown, not an instant passes without a delightful surprise, charming trick or punch line. 

Although pitched at children aged 2-7 years, this show’s ingenuity and professionalism will spellbind older kids and impress adults as well.

The show moves fluently through six of Pamela Allen’s famous tales, each given its own tone and style. Inflatable puppets, processions of rubber ducks, a ukulele-playing cow and a gluttonous ‘dough’ King each have their enchanting moments.

The punchy score and songs are infectious and the beautifully crafted set, made up of rustic shelving units, suitcases and large packing cases, is an example of very effective and resourceful design. 

This is first-rate, road-tested, children’s entertainment; a premium example of polished and masterful family entertainment. The whole company should be congratulated on this work and it is pleasing to hear they will continue to share this superb show on a South Island tour after finishing this Wellington run.


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Partnership draws audience into marvellous world of adventures

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 22nd Apr 2014

Capital E’s first show in its new home is a winner and definitely for all ages. Mr McGee & the Biting Flea takes five short stories by Pamela Allen and turns them into highly entertaining, expertly performed, amusingly choreographed, musical adventures.

This humdinger of a show is the very happy result of a partnership between the Adelaide- based Patch Theatre Company and our own Capital E. [More]


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Great pleasure all round

Review by John Smythe 20th Apr 2014

In the unlit gloom the set on stage looks like some kind of storeroom. The shelves of old suitcases, trunks and boxes of various shapes and sizes suggest it could be a lost luggage repository. Perhaps.

When the three who work there – personified by Whitney Channings, Tom Knowles and Jack Buchanan – arrive, turn on the light and discover they have an audience, they are delighted to realise, “This a performance day!” Chalk board job sheets in fact refer to the five stories they are about to tell. Mr McGee & the Biting Flea is the last on the list, although he is introduced first up with a whimsical song that has him floating over the town like a balloon.

The harmonised singing – often a cappella, sometimes with recorded backing, other times accompanied by the actors on guitar or ukulele – is sublime (composer, Timothy Sexton; musical director, Michael Nicholas Williams) and it often carries much of the story.

A range of simple but creative conventions are used to illustrate or dramatise Pamela Allen’s stories, which are hugely popular as story books in Australia and less well-known here (arguably eclipsed by Lynley Dodd, Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, Gavin Bishop et al).

Born in Devonport Auckland in 1934, Pamela Allen moved to Australia in 1980 where, with Mr Archimedes’ Bath, she launched a multi award-winning career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. She is now living back in Auckland, according to Wikipedia. Capital E claims her as “one of Aotearoa’s best writers for children” although the stories that have ‘real’ locations are set in Australia.

Adelaide’s Patch Theatre Company has adapted many of her stories for live performance (Who Sank the Boat, for example, comprises eight of them).  Mr McGee & the Biting Flea premiered in Adelaide in 2007 and won a number of awards in Australia, including for touring.

Now Patch Theatre’s artistic director, Dave Brown, has brought Allen’s work ‘home’ in a new production with Capital E National Theatre for Children’s all-Kiwi cast. This two-week season at their new home, The Hannah Playhouse, kicks off a 15-venue tour throughout New Zealand. Although it is advertised as “ideal for 2-7 year-olds”, which is true for the picture-books, the theatrical inventiveness will be of interest to older children who like making up plays or adapting stories for performance themselves.  

Bathtub ducks, a plank of wood, a clear plastic cylinder and a jug of water are used to illustrate the story of how Alexander Duck goes walkabout from Sydney’s Botanical Gardens with his mother and siblings, falls down a drain and gets rescued. It incorporates a simple physics lesson that is somewhat related to Mr Archimedes’ Bath.

Old Tom has to solve a problem when his wife Bessie, who usually milks Belinda the cow, goes to stay with their daughter and Belinda resists Tom’s attempts to milk her. But it’s nothing a bit of cross-dressing won’t solve.

Slabs of dough and some rather large cookie cutters are the means by which we see the tale of how a despotic King loses his cooks, his arrogance and his fat belly thanks to the simple fare he gets to share with a kind you Stable Boy. Brown bread and honey could become favoured in many homes after seeing this.

Most stories about children telling fibs teach them why it’s a bad idea, but when Mary Elizabeth tells the boys at school there’s a monster in her house and they don’t believe her until it spooks them … It’s hard to see this as anything more than amoral fantasy fulfilment. But it is played out delightfully and is arguably less scary than the book.  

And so to the title story, in which Mr McGee goes to the beach and solves his problem with the biting flea by stripping off completely and running into the sea. Parental concern at potential adult nudity in a children’s show puts a palpable frisson through the packed theatre but never fear: strategically held suitcases, albeit small, ensure due decorum is maintained. (We don’t even get a prosthetic bare bottom such as that which delights the kids so much in KidzStuff’s Badjelly The Witch.)

The talent, skills and great pleasure with which the three actors perform this show ensure a delightful 45 minutes for all.


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