Te Papa Tongarewa, Te Marae, Cable Street, Wellington

09/03/2019 - 09/03/2019

Capital E National Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

Written by Jamie McCaskill and translated into te reo Māori by Hōhepa Waitoa
Inspired by the book by Patricia Grace

Taki Rua Productions

The beloved children’s book The Kuia and The Spider receives the prequel treatment in Te Kuia Me Te Pūngāwerewere which explores the origins of the argument…

Penned by Jamie McCaskill and translated into te reo Māori by Hōhepa Waitoa, Te Kuia Me Te Pūngāwerewere tells the untold backstory and real reason why the old lady and the spider are constantly arguing about whose weaving is superior. Travelling back dimensionally into the spider world, Kui and Pūpai must solve the request of the PPP, Pāpāpangopuku, to find out how to save the spider world from human proliferation.

This show is performed entirely in te reo Māori using gestures and movement so that non-speakers can follow along and enjoy. The Saturday 9 March 1.00pm show is a relaxed performance.

Relaxed Performance

Made with funding from Creative New Zealand, Wellington City Council and Experience Wellington.

Developed with the contributions of Matu Ngaropo, Kura Forrester, Scotty Cotter and Amanda Noblett, from an original concept by Geoff Pinfield, Tānemahuta Gray and Taki Rua Productions. Text copyright © Patricia Grace, 1982. Illustrations copyright © Robyn Kahukiwa, 1982. First published by Puffin Books. This adaptation published is by arrangement with Penguin Random House New Zealand Ltd.

Te Marae, Te Papa
Saturday 9 March 2019
1 pm
AGES: 7+


Amanda Noblett
Jason Tewharaunga
Te Awhiroa Lewis Kuka-Sweet
Isaac Te Reina

Karakia by Tanemahuta Grey

Costume designer Charlotte Kelleher
Sound designer: Maaka McGregor

Theatre , Children’s , Te Ao Māori , Te Reo Māori ,

50 mins

An immersive, fun, open-handed challenge to engage

Review by John Anderson 10th Mar 2019

We are on the contemporary marae at Te Papa Tongarewa with its vibrant and unique Te wharenui, Te Hono ki Hawaiki. Tanemahuta Grey from Taki Rua begins the show with a karakia and welcomes us to this premiere of Te Kuia me te Pūngawerewere to be performed in te reo Māori.

The kuia’s flax and baskets are tidily stored by the wall and the weaving of the spider runs up the walls of her whare. Kui the Kuia (Amanda Noblett) comes on with a classic waiata and there is an audible gasp from the audience when Pūpai the spider (Jason Tewharaunga) leaps onto the stage. The costumes are dynamic and well-expressed by designer Charlotte Kelleher – and Pūpai’s costume is a true highlight.

Kui and Pūpai soon fall into the argument that is at the heart of Patricia Grace’s classic fable illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa. Who is the better weaver?

However as this argument reaches a crescendo suddenly the tone shifts and we are thrown dramatically – matrix style – into the World of Spiders. It is here they meet Pūpai’s brother Pūkino (Te Awhiroa Lewis Kuka-Sweet) and Pēpeke (Isaac Te Reina). Pūkino is played with villainous gusto by Te Awhiroa Lewis Kuka-Sweet who desires to become Rangatira o te Ao and is joined by his sometimes sidekick Pēpeke the grasshopper.

The hikoi begins as Kui and Pūpai head off to find the all-knowing spider, Papapangopuku to help save the world of the spiders.

The attention of the audience from young and old is held throughout the pitch-perfect delivery by this strong cast. Their acting combined with the script by Jamie McCaskill uses repetition, familiar kupu, culture and music to draw us all in, regardless of the depth of our knowledge.

The music stretches from original numbers, to classic much-loved waiata, Richard Strauss and the frenetic energy of Yakety Sax. The sound design by Maaka McGregor enhances the action and sense of drama. There is a crispness and flow to the show due in no small part to the stage management of Olivia Chan enhanced by the set design of Wai Mihinui which shines as being both flexible, but with enough depth to support a story that wants to take us places.

The children’s literature that we return to are those which are layered for the different audiences that experience them. This is truly a whakaari for everyone, young and old, fluent or not. As ripples of laughter run through the audience I know I’m not following every joke, nuance or moment of this translation by Hōhepa Waitoa. But like me, my young children’s attention to this saga is complete.

The play ends with the pepeha of each cast member, a koha by the cast to the whanau of Patricia Grace, and finally a karakia by Tanemahuta Grey. I leave feeling grateful to the work of Taki Rua, and the many seen and unseen who have worked to bring us to this point – where there is a venue, audience and opportunity to see this beauty.

It is immersive, fun and an open-handed challenge to engage with and appreciate a unique taonga of this land – te reo Māori. It has been an absolute pleasure to go to this show. 

As part of the Capital E National Arts Festival it is a relaxed performance and a social script is available to familiarise audience members to the venue and the event.

You can see more of Taki Rua’s upcoming programme here.


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