Songs of the Sea | Waiata o te Moana

Southwards Theatre, Otaihanga, Paraparaumu

20/04/2017 - 21/04/2017

Expressions Arts & Entertainment Centre - Upper Hutt, Wellington

29/04/2017 - 29/04/2017

Production Details

Capital E’s April School Holiday junior show is the much anticipated return of Songs of the Sea | Waiata o te Moana. 

Ideal for ages 2-7

As three children play by the ocean a large conch shell starts to whisper stories of the sea. Fluorescent fish float under a starry sky and a magical character appears in a rickety boat to tell his fishy tale.

Our mythical story invites the audience to look to where the sky meets the sea for the answers. In a fusion of song, dance, puppets, te reo Māori and English, Songs of the Sea | Waiata O Te Moana unfolds the mysteries and myths of where the first fish came from.

From the Sun and Moon (Ra and Marama), the Milky Way (Ite Ika o te Rangi), to the Great Shaper of the Universe come a myriad of marine creatures. The audience floats in a starry sky and dives into a great underwater world as music and stage wizardry transform their day.

The fabulously imaginative Songs of the Sea features colourful & sparkly puppets of artist Sue Hill and infectiously catchy music by Stephen Gallagher to weave together four stories of the deep, including how the children of Te Ika Rā, the lonely sunfish and Te Ika Marama the bright moonfish, got their rainbow colours.

With previous seasons in New Zealand & Australia this beautiful production returns for a national tour throughout Aotearoa to delight children with tales of the ocean told in English and te reo Māori.

Beautiful, playful and a joy to watch this play will strike chords of wonder in younger audiences.

On at: 

Southward Car Museum,
Thursday 20–Friday 21April 2017, 10am 

Expressions Whirinaki Arts & EntertainmentCentre,
Saturday 29 April 2017, 10am

Puppeteers/Actors: Maria Williams, Isobel MacKinnon and Jonathan Morgan
Puppeteer: Phil Loizou

Set and costume design by Tony De Goldi 
Music composed by Stephen Gallagher 
Puppet direction by Peter Wilson 
Lighting design by Glenn Ashworth  

Theatre , Puppetry , Family , Children’s ,

A visual and aural sensory experience

Review by Tess Jamieson-Kahara 30th Apr 2017

The casual, familiar nature of the three actors playing at the beach, wearing flippers and masks whilst looking into rock pools, gives license for the audience to be vocal and interactive from the get go. The use of Te Reo Maori, song, dance and fabulous puppetry make for a dynamic sensory experience.

A conch shell whispers a story and song of the sea to each of the actors. These stories take us back to the origins of the first lonely fish, Te Ika Marama and her journey to meet Te Ika Ra, The Sun Fish. Their babies aren’t too happy about being just Kowhai so with the help of Tāwhirimātea and Te Ra, the fish become all the colours of the rainbow and the beauty of Te Moana is celebrated in all its glory.

The actors – Maria Williams, Isobel MacKinnon and Jonathan Morgan – are engaging with their different personalities. The friendly banter and repetition of each story set up is pleasing to my kids (3 & 6). They aren’t able to tell me what the stories are about but I don’t think that bothers them! Not when they get to sit back and see some incredible stage craft including sparkly sea creatures enhanced with blue light, a long bearded Scotsman sailing through the milky way looking for shells and a shimmering rainbow taking over the stage!

This visual and aural sensory experience is worth taking your kids to.


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Imaginative storytelling with a visual feast of theatre magic

Review by Jo Hodgson 21st Apr 2017

Songs of the Sea – Waiata o te Moana has had many incarnations since the early 2000s and here we are today to be taken on a new adventure in the waves.  

Three circular drum-like shapes sit centre stage in a graduating format: one in front of the other from small to large. They look a bit like a telescope pointing up into the black night. 

A nearly 15 minute delay starting has the crowd in a heightened state of anticipation and restlessness, but as soon as the lights start to dim, a hiss of shh’ing goes round the theatre and then (relative) quiet. 

Rippling guitar music fills the air and the shapes begin to roll and sway as if on the waves. Haunting calls rise from the depth on what sounds like Taonga pūoro (traditional Maori instruments). “That’s a whale,” my 6 year old says as the sounds and shapes group together. Dappled light plays on their surfaces and they become portholes through which we can see divers exploring the world beneath the sea.

Now we’re at the beach with three children, faces wrapped in goggles, plunging their eyes into rock pools. There are discoveries, exploration, fun, humour and laughter as they share their knowledge of this fascinating world to the audience in both English and Te Reo.

Director Jacqui Coats creates a world where we feel like we are right there, hearing the gulls and the waves, tasting the salt and the feel of the sand on our feet as we join the children – actors Maria Williams, Isobel MacKinnon and Jonathan Morgan – to hear the sea splishing and splashing, heaving and booming, swooshing and crashing in a giant conch shell which sings the song; the songs of the sea that whisper and weaves us further into myth and imagination.

The stories of Songs of the Sea are told through the use of an array of beautifully designed and colourful puppets created by artist Sue Hill supported by a mixture of evocative and playful music by Stephen Gallagher. 

The stories of Te Ika Rā the Sunfish and Te Ika Marama the Moonfish are imagined and created by Peter Wilson, seemingly drawing from questions that children might ask: How did we get fish in the sea and what gave them their colours? What are shooting stars and where do they land? Where do shells come from? And his answers are influenced by the traditional passing on of stories.

Unfortunately on this opening performance a few technical hitches with lighting mean we don’t get to see the clever puppet character The Shaper who travels the milky way and creates the seashells, but this scene with its spinning Milky way and fluorescent dancing shells captures the audience in a wow moment which draws the younger audience members back in again.

The stories and songs are delivered clearly and strongly from the talented actors with enjoyable harmonies, excellently worked puppetry and seamless moving of the set pieces designed by Toni De Goldi. Particularly effective are the billowing fabric waves as Tāwhirimātea mixes the fish and shells to create new creatures of the sea. 

I’m not sure if the delayed start has impacted on the much younger audience members being able to stay as focused at this performance but the arc of the show is such that, just when most needed, the music becomes more upbeat and visually the stage is filled with a multitude of sea creatures brightening up the scene. It’s well worth waiting for the majestic jellyfish. 

Songs of the Sea brings together the perfect combination of imaginative storytelling with a visual feast of theatre magic wrapped around the fun of things that children do in their own world, bringing connection and a sense of belonging for the audience watching.

So, in keeping with the show’s final words – “Stop and listen when you’re by the sea” – we’re off the beach to explore and play. Maybe we’ll see some of the creatures from Waiata o te Moana.  


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