TE TUPUA – The Goblin

BATS Theatre-hosted online, Wellington

20/10/2021 - 22/10/2021

The Octagon Theatre, 13 Aubrey Street, Whangarei

15/10/2022 - 15/10/2022

Regent Theatre Clarkson Studio, Dunedin

18/05/2024 - 18/05/2024

TAHI Festival 2021

Whangārei Fringe 2022

Production Details

Written and performed by John Davies

Ka whakahokia a Tupua he kōrero ia
Whakarongo ki te tangi ra kua pahemo.

Te Tupua will speak,
Listen to this cry from the past.

A Scottish lad of 10 is driven into slavery aboard His Majesty’s ships, circa 1800. After 15 years at sea he is cast onto the shoreline of Aotearoa and the fight for survival begins.

Te Tupua – The Goblin is a story of early contact and the act of expiation leading the audience to reflect on our bi-cultural origins where the performer, John Davies, operates as a cultural memory-worker; a cross between a shaman, an historian and a storyteller.  Te Tupua the Goblin is an expertly crafted solo performance, delivered by a veteran of the New Zealand stage. John Davies inhabits nine characters, bringing to life an extraordinary corner of our history.

Te Tupua remains a marginalised phenomenon, despised yet seeking atonement.

Based on historical events, this tattooed Pākehā remains a potent figure in today’s political climate.

Haere mai Te Tupua – a storytelling history play suitable for ages 10 and up.

BATS Theatre hosted, digital online
20 (– 22) October 2021
available from 8:30pm 20 Oct for 48 hours
“Pay What You Can” $5
The Difference $40
“Pay It Forward” $25
“Pay What You Can” $20
“Pay What You Can” $15
“Pay What You Can” $10

Due to Auckland Level 3 restrictions John Davies is no longer able to TAHI Festival in person. To replace this live performance of Te Tupua – The Goblin – a digital version will be available for 48 hours from 8.30pm, Wed 20 October and tickets are now pay-what-you-can from $5-$25.  All current ticket holders will be notified of the changes and sent the link.

See more this TAHI FESTIVAL with a TAHI TASTER Season Pass!
Get THREE TICKETS for any three TAHI shows:
$45 Full Price (saving up to $21) / $36 Concession (saving up to $10)

19-23 October
A celebration of solo performance, TAHI is a five-day Festival at BATS Theatre dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo theatre from all around Aotearoa.
@tahifestivalnz| #TAHI2021


The Octagon Theatre ,15 October 2022, 8 pm


Regent Theatre, Clarkson Studio, Dunedin.

SATURDAY 18 MAY 2024 : 7.30PM
ADULT: $45 + booking fees
CHILD (16 & under): $335 + booking fees
SENIOR/STUDENT: $40 + booking fees
BAR LEANER PACKAGE (4 bar leaner seats, bottle of wine & snacks): $200 + booking fees

2024 Itinerary:

Thursday 2 May 7.30pm
Turner Centre
Adults $35, Youth $20
Tickets: iTicket.co.nz

Saturday 4 May 7pm
Waihi Drama Society
Adult $25, Child $10
Tickets: waihidramasociety.co.nz

Sunday 5 May 7pm
Monkey House
Lounge & Cabaret
$20 Tickets: Eventfinda

Monday 6 May 6pm
The Plaza Theatre
Tickets: The Plaza

Tuesday 7 May 7.30pm
16th Ave Theatre
$35 Tickets: iTicket

Wednesday 8 May 7pm
Gateway Theatre
$30 adults, $5 students
Tickets: The Good Life
and online via eventfinda

Saturday 11 May
Upper Hutt
Whirinaki Whare Taonga
Tickets: www.whirinakiarts.org.nz

Wednesday 15 May 7pm
The Mayfair
Arts and Culture Centre
Adult $25, Gold Card $20
Student $10, Children $5
Tickets: themayfair

Thursday 16 May 7.30pm
Great Hall
Te Matatiki Toi Ora
The Arts Centre
$25 Tickets: artscentre

Saturday 18 May 6.30pm
The Clarkson Studio
Regent Theatre
Tickets: regenttheatre

Sunday 19 May 7.30pm
Coronation Hall
Tickets: artscentral

Tuesday 21 May 7.30pm
Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall
Tickets: humanitix

Wednesday 22 May
Invercargill – TBC

Thursday 23 May 7pm
Lake Hawea Community Centre
$25 adults,
$10 school students
Tickets: .lhcc.co.nz/whatson

Saturday 25 May 8pm
The Lyric Theatre
$25 Tickets: thelyric.nz
Doors open 7pm
show starts at 8pm
Presale tickets $20 or $25 on the door

Sunday 26 May 7.30pm
The Mussel Inn
Tickets: At the door

Thursday 30 May 7.30pm
New Plymouth
4th Wall Theatre
Adults $30
Seniors $25
Students $20
Tickets: 4thwalltheatre

Creative Team
Written & Performed by John Davies
Performance Advisers: Teiaro Taikato, Ariana Williams & Alexandra Witham
Design: Moko Smith

Webcast , Theatre , Solo , Digital presentation ,

1hr 30mins

Energy is high throughout

Review by Hannah Molloy 20th May 2024

Te Tupua – The Goblin, written and performed by John G Davies seems biographical, a retelling of an ancestor’s story but is in fact fiction, although closely interwoven through records of people who lived these lives and threaded into Davies own story by use of his own name for the central character.

Davies talks in his programme notes about being heavily influenced by Noh theatre forms as well as European and Māori. Some of these influences are subtle, others overt or perhaps, for this viewer, just what I’m used to. Davies’ energy is high throughout, something acknowledged by more than one audience member in the Q&A session afterwards. 

He tells us the story of Scotsman James Graham, from his first memories of life aboard a ship as the ship’s monkey scaling the highest of the high rigging and being cuffed by the captain to his own shipwreck on the shores of Aotearoa and rescue/capture by a hapū who take him in as their own – with some negotiation about his place in the community – to his return to England to find a home in a circus of freaks. There’s a layer of metaphor here that I can’t quite grasp – but something about the freakishness and brutality of colonisation normalised, juxtaposed against the normalisation of brutalising freaks – as I say, I haven’t quite got my finger on it yet.

As a Pākehā finding my slow way through decolonising myself, there are moments where I feel prickly, with discomfort and with some degree of indignation about the very colonial language and perspectives. I have to tell myself to settle down a few times and I’m pleased to have stayed to listen to Davies’ kōrero afterwards, as his eloquence carries a gentle humility and confidence side by side that settles all my prickles. In some ways, this part of the performance is even more enriching than the play itself. 

Davies talks about the role of theatre in making space for conversation, for learning how to be a human, and perhaps in this time, that’s what we need most. A safe place where we can be challenged and discomfited without judgement, where we can learn and ponder and test our thinking against what we thought before. Theatre lives and theatre helps us live too.


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Review by Matt Keene 16th Oct 2022

Te Tupua – The Goblin is a tale of early colonial interaction between Māori and a Scots sailor transplanted to early colonial Aotearoa. Davies, a self-described intercultural performer, opens with his mihi which settles the space and lays the foundation for the 90 minutes of intense and fast paced storytelling that follows.

The play itself begins with Davies encountering a taonga that opens a portal for his tupuna, the rogue Scots sailor Graham, to appear. We encounter a multitude of characters – I counted at least a dozen – that Davies swiftly and effortlessly switches between, infusing them with meticulous movements and accents, enabling each to be clearly visualised.

Davies inhabits Māori, Pākehā, Scots, male, female, warrior and wahine, of different ages, each responding to Graham and the extraordinary events of his life. Davies drawls bawdy sailor shanties, sings old country folk songs, wails plaintive waiata and performs stirring haka. It is a remarkable performance in terms of its scope, its physicality and technical accomplishment.

The story drifted a little for me in the final third when Graham leaves Aotearoa, but on reflection I think this is more because the scenes of his initial encounters with Māori and his subsequent integration into Te Ao Māori are so engaging. The finale is eerie and mesmerising, a mix of cultures that have combined to create and define The Goblin.



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A bracing dive into our collective history and imagination

Review by John Anderson 21st Oct 2021

BATS would be the perfect venue to see Te Tupua – The Goblin. As part of the continual upheaval of COVID, the season has been moved to digital. So I am here now drawing the curtains and settling into the darkness of my lounge. The experience that unfolds is immersive and thought-provoking.

TAHI is the annual New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance curated in Wellington. Te Tupua – The Goblin was written and is performed by John Davies who has worked in New Zealand theatre for over 50 years as a writer, actor, and director. The work’s inception was in 2000 as part of his MA. It has been performed and worked on and now appears as part of this long-running festival highlighting the best of New Zealand solo theatre.

John Davies dives into New Zealand history and his imagination to conjure up a distant ancestor, James Graham. The physical theatre required to transcend both the stage and my computer screen is undeniably powerful, as the grizzled old sailor Graham recounts his journey into Aotearoa and beyond with growing confidence.  

John Davies has been aided in creating this bilingual work by his mentor Hāre Williams and translator Piri Rewa. The use of tāonga pūoro, waiata and folk songs contribute strongly to the story. The filming and editing by Pablo Araus provides subtle touches that help move the story from the stage to my screen. Overall, the team that has worked to bring this play to us have done a fine job and I am on the edge of my seat as Te Tupua works its magic. 

There are many stories which will be told, looked from new angles and examined again as we explore our collective past in Aotearoa. For myself as a Pākehā, Te Tupua – The Goblin, is a bracing dive into our collective history and imagination which challenges me.

I’ve already encouraged friends and family to buy a ticket from BATS online. I encourage you to do the same. It won’t be up for long.


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