Tim Finn: WHITE CLOUD

Glenroy Auditorium, The Dunedin Centre, 1 Harrop Street, Dunedin

17/10/2014 - 17/10/2014

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

25/10/2014 - 26/10/2014

Turner Centre, 43 Cobham Road, Kerikeri

26/04/2015 - 26/04/2015

Concert Chamber, Town Hall, Auckland Live, Auckland

02/09/2015 - 06/09/2015

TVNZ Festival Club, Arts Centre, Christchurch

04/09/2015 - 05/09/2015

Nelson Arts Festival 2014

Christchurch Arts Festival 2015

Dunedin Arts Festival 2014

UPSURGE 2015

Production Details


Created by Tim Finn, Ken Duncum and Sue Healey


‘The island is full of voices,’ says Caliban in The Tempest, and so too are the islands of Aotearoa.

Join celebrated New Zealand musician Tim Finn in this unique show crafted with award-winning playwright Ken Duncum and filmmaker Sue Healey. A performance event where the alchemy of observation, photographs and journals, story, and song deliver a potent celebration of family, ancestors and what it means to be Pākehā.

Touching on themes of cultural dislocation, relocation and reconnection, White Cloud is a reflection on the life of Tim’s Anglo-Saxon family growing up in New Zealand, missing the UK, being immersed in Māori culture and how that shaped his family.

“[Tim Finn’s songs] tell amazing stories and are refreshingly direct in what he has to say and what he asks us to question. Duncum takes family stories and brings them alive, with enough nostalgia to make us all reflect on growing up in a younger more innocent New Zealand but not enough to feel sugar coated. They make for a powerful creative combination.” – LYNN FREEMAN, CAPITAL TIMES

Arts Festival Dunedin 2014
Gelnroy Auditorium
Fri 17 October, 8pm

Nelson Arts Festival 2014
VENUE Theatre Royal
DATE: Sat 25 Oct, 7.30pm; Sun 26 Oct, 7.30pm
DURATION: 75 mins
PRICE: A Res $49, B Res $44
UNDER 18: A Res $27, B Res $22
SPECIAL: Dinner at Ford’s and Show $75
PLUS TICKETDIRECT SERVICE FEE

UPSURGE 2015
Venue: The Turner Centre
Date: Sun 26 April 7.30pm
Duration: 75 mins no interval
Early $32 | Full $34 Plus Service Fees

AUCKLAND 2015
Live at Concert Chamber | Auckland Town Hall
Wednesday 2 September, 6pm and
Sunday 6 September, 4.30pm
Ticket Prices
Premium – $39.00*
Concession – $35.00*
Table of six – $210.00*
Premium Elite Experience – $312.00* (only three tables available)
Gallery – $29.00*

CHRISTCHURCH ARTS FESTIVAL 2015
Celebrated New Zealand musician Tim Finn takes audience on an immersive, poetic musical journey of discovery.
“A fascinating piece of poetry and music performance art”
4 & 5 September 2015
TVNZ Festival Club, The Arts Centre
Book www.ticketek.co.nz 0800 TICKETEK (842 538)



Theatre , Musical ,


1hr 15mins

A fascinating expression of layered artistry

Review by Grant Hindin Miller 05th Sep 2015

‘White Cloud, Dark Shadows, Green Hills’ 

New Zealanders are a people “who are defined by what they’re not” (White Cloud). One of the things we don’t do is draw attention to ourselves. Tim Finn’s stroll onto stage in the TVNZ Festival Club without sound, lighting, musical, or dramatic cue, exemplifies this sentiment. In a no-nonsense sort of Pākehā way he picks up his guitar, places the strap over his head, and gets underway. 

I have often admired Tim Finn’s song writing talent and this is the first time I’ve seen him perform live. I’m impressed. The revelation for me is his sensitivity and skill on the piano. Comfortable and confident, you have the sense that here is a man at the top of his game. 

White Cloud is a musical memoir, a triptych of music, poetry and visual imagery. A collaboration between playwright Ken Duncum, filmmaker Sue Healy and singer-songwriter Tim Finn, its recurring motif is ‘white cloud, dark shadows, green hills’: a haiku-like summation of the New Zealand Pākehā experience. The weight falls perhaps on ‘dark shadows’ (especially in songs like ‘It’s not always safe’).

Through snapshots and home movies the songs sometimes act as a response to the visuals and at other times the visuals support the songs. Tim Finn’s sterling musicality holds it all together. I’m reminded, favourably, of ‘The Boy with a Note’, the life and times of Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, told in narrative and song by English singer-songwriter Ralph McTell. The advantage McTell had is that he was dealing with one character, moreover an icon of whom we already had some awareness. White Cloud has multiple protagonists: the members of two extended families, Pākehā identity itself and what it means to be a New Zealander. 

It’s a challenge to hold all that together. Whilst the delivery of the poetry and songs is always assured, the feeling is of sometimes being at arm’s length from the material. We long for a main character. Where the show soars is when the focus is individualised; for example in ‘I had a Flying Dream’, the song about Tim’s mother, Maisie.

White Cloud is a complex and courageous exploration of family and identity. Whilst it is essentially the whakapapa of two NZ Pākehā males, it is also a fascinating expression of layered artistry, ‘full of voices’ that speak to and for New Zealanders.

Tim Finn is excellent on stage, varying aural dynamics by his gifted and selective use of guitar, electric ukulele, piano, and wooden flute. His voice is great. The Christchurch audience loves him and responds with a standing ovation.

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Shared journeys

Review by Alan Scott 27th Apr 2015

Tim Finn’s one-man show, White Cloud, promises more than it delivers. Using song, narrative, film and photographs it explores the question of what it means to be Pakeha. Devised and written by both Finn and playwright Ken Duncum, it traverses the lives of their immigrant ancestors and more recent twentieth century family history, and to a small extent Finn’s own progression from Te Awamutu boy to performing artist. 

With Finn’s track record, expectations are high but the show, for all its fine writing, evocative songs and committed singing performance from Finn himself, is badly in need of direction and restructuring. 

As a pub or club gig it might be fine, but billed as a “performance event … an immersive encounter”, it lacks cohesion and, to be frank, a degree of artistry. It was first performed back in 2012 with a band and two narrators. In the current iteration, all the narration, music and song is performed by Finn himself. 

He moves back and forward across the stage from piano stool to stand up mike. It’s a clunky, distracting style of staging which breaks the flow of the greater story. 

Quite a lot of the narration is rendered with Finn seated at the piano, side on to the audience, eyes forward, fixed on the music or the words, I’m not sure which. We see no facial expression or gesture and we cannot read what is in the eyes of the performer. Though the spoken words are clear, they are delivered in a somewhat flat and hurried manner. 

If we put these criticisms to one side, there is no denying the quality of Tim Finn’s song writing or Ken Duncum’s prose. There is also no denying the authenticity of the stories from the past, which are interesting and informative. Sometimes – as when a child carries responsibility for her sister’s death into old age, or when a mother can hardly recognise her disfigured son – they bring another, more painful dimension into play. 

The song, ‘Going Too Fast’ hits hard, too, as it evokes images of the white crosses fixed at the side of many a New Zealand road, and the devil-may-care recklessness of the teenagers whose names are inscribed upon them. There are evocative songs like ‘Flying Dream’, which talks of the sacred mountains and the holy town, and amusing songs like ‘Pakeha’, which tells us if we are not quite certain who we are then it is odds on we are Pakeha.

There is plenty to amuse the audience, too, in the film projected on the backdrop, a deal of which comprises home movies taken by Finn’s father of his children. There they are racing around on bikes, playing football and doing all manner of tricks with hula hoops. These visual images certainly conjure up for many of us our own early years. 

White Cloud is not just Tim Finn’s and Ken Duncum’s journeys; it is ours too, for there is much in all our lives, in all our personal histories, which is a mirror image of theirs. The performance starts where we all started, back two hundred thousand years ago on the African plains. It ends on a stage in Kerikeri, with one man and a guitar, connected to his own story and linking it to ours.

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Far from flawless

Review by Gail Tresidder 26th Oct 2014

Having lived in Europe throughout the heyday of Tim Finn and his various bands, this is my first chance to hear this much-admired icon of New Zealand popular music performing live.  No doubt he is a splendid piano man and skilled player of guitar and ukulele. However, it is such a shame that this whole show, originally devised for a full band and two narrators (reviewed here), has been watered down to just Tim himself.  That may be financially practicable but the ticket prices are high – the same as for Beyond, and they brought their whole troupe to our festival.

The grand piano on one side of the stage, string instruments on the other, means that Finn has to keep crossing the stage.  The reason for this setting is unclear – it seems odd and is distracting; perhaps he needs to keep the blood flowing or is it a way of ensuring that as much of the audience as possible can get a clear view? 

The result of Tim being sole narrator for the Finn and Duncum family stories, is it is often somewhat confusing as to what and who belonged to which.  Whispers  my guest, “Who is this Ken he keeps on mentioning?” Like a majority of the audience, I would imagine, she doesn’t know that White Cloud originated as a larger production, and for much of the concert is puzzled.  She is a writer, interested in plot development and story, so is disappointed the whole is not clearer, crisper.

Back to the show.  The tracing of man stepping out of Africa into the world, driven by “hunger or war” to walk to new lands, is effective musically and visually on the screen.  Then in no particular order, lovely dress-up film footage of, presumably, the Finn children: at the beach, playing football, doing extremely well with hula hoops, nearly scuppering the smallest one, sitting on a rug dangerously close to fast circling bikes.  Accompanied with music and song, these bring up so many memories. All around me, people are smiling, laughing out loud, engaging with their own childhoods. 

One song stands out above the others – ‘Rainstorm’ – and Finn gives it his very best.  The graphic images of an old plane accompanying ‘Flying Dreams’, a tender song in memory of Finn’s mother and all those who had gone before, leave us quiet and thoughtful.  The undoubted star of the show is Mary, the matriarch. Beautifully read from her journals by a disembodied voice (back-stage or on the sound track it is hard to tell) and cleverly timed in with a song/narrative from Tim at the piano, she comes across as loving, creative, courageous, long-suffering and very real; just everything we would wish our mothers to be.  Lucky Finn family.

Much of the film footage, taken with state-of-the-art cameras of the time, is  blotchy, fizzy and jumpy.  It gives truth, authenticity; they are taonga.  The skeleton of a moa on, then under the ground, slowly disintegrating as children play on the grass above and a karakia over footage of our great kauri Tāne Mahuta, are memorable images. 

In a far from flawless performance, Tim Finn delivers a potent message to treasure our past while looking to the future, albeit sometimes on shaky ground, literally and emotionally.  And he reminds us not to forget the people who came to the unknown, at the very beginning of modern mankind, all the way from Africa, finally reaching our lovely Aoteoroa.

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Impressive quest for identity

Review by Alison Embleton 18th Oct 2014

Stripped down from its original staging to a one man show, Ken Duncum and Tim Finn’s collaboration White Cloud delivers a nostalgic tribute to family, history and music.

An eclectic collection of memories, journal entries and film footage/photographs from Finn and Duncum’s families creates the base for White Cloud. Reminiscences, songs and snatches of poetry are woven together through the 70 minute performance by Finn, who alternates between piano and guitar to accompany the songs. It should also be noted that Finn is a master of the lost art of whistling, and makes ample use of this fine skill during the evening.

After a slightly stilted opening to the show, the audience is slowly caught up in the emotional history of developing identity and family ties to the land. Finn explores the concept of finding one’s personal identity when your ‘tribe’ is from everywhere and nowhere; what makes us who we are and what impact we have on those we people we populate our lives with. 

While White Cloud doesn’t follow a linear story pattern per se,a progression through time from early European settlement days in New Zealand through to the present allows for the stories of generations and the impact they have on one another to play out. The non-linear styling can be confusing at times and it is occasionally unclear who Finn is referring to or whether the memories are from his own family or Duncum’s, but the unusual flow makes for an impressive performance; more art installation at times than theatre. And ultimately, these details are not important to the piece as a whole.

A series of excerpts from Finn’s mother’s journal are beautiful and heart-breaking in equal measure, and White Cloud gives the impression of being a lasting tribute to her and to the way in which the family was raised. A cheeky nod is also given to Finn’s father (who provided a lot of the film material), who (at 92) is at home raising a glass of single malt and watching his family film footage every time White Cloud is performed.

Full appreciation of this piece can probably only truly come from being raised in 60s and 70s New Zealand, the quintessentially ‘Kiwi’ images projected on the wall behind Finn hark back to a time shrouded in quaint nostalgia, with hints at a lingering darkness of racial issues, financial depression and identity crisis… “White cloud, black shadow…” Finn sings.

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