The show opens with performers, Kenny King and Jeremy Hunt, introducing themselves to the audience, followed by a song. While Hunt plays the ukulele, King integrates New Zealand Sign Language into the subtle choreography. This is used throughout the performance, often when one of the performers is narrating or introducing a new character or location. The use of sign language and the casual integration of te reo Maōri is a wonderful triumph for inclusivity in children’s theatre. We often, as theatre makers, overlook how important it is to get children interested in theatre as early as possible; creating a space where they are not only welcomed but represented is a great leap towards bridging that gap. I applaud Jacqui Coats, the director and writer, for implementing this effortlessly.
I must preface this next section; I am a major puppet nerd. Both in enjoyment and also building my own. I was in giggles of delight watching the gorgeous patchwork nature of the puppets, designed by Sue Hill, Sharon Johnstone and interns from Toi Whakaari, Erin Belcher and Nika Beaton. It was actually a tough competition as to who enjoyed the puppets more - me or the children. Of particular note was the gorgeous hoiho. Their gangly legs and malleable bodies often lead to some of the best comedic timing I have seen in any theatre show. The puppet switching between Hunt and King was also genuinely seamless. This is one of the hardest skills to nail in live puppetry so I must give kudos to these two puppet masters. Also - you know you’re watching good puppetry when a performer is able to bring a sheet of plastic to life!
As someone who studied children’s theatre, it is so refreshing to see a show that treats the tamariki in the audience as intelligent theatre consumers. This is something that The Adventures of Tahi and Kōwhai does to great effect. While there is an underlying message of caring for our native birds and being more considerate towards their habitat, at its core, the show is about love. Everyone deserves to feel loved and have a special someone who loves them, both romantically and platonically. This was expressed particularly well in the “Tahi Song”. The mixture of Coats’ heartfelt lyrics and composer Liam Reid’s score had me genuinely moved at multiple points in the show.
The Adventures of Tahi and Kōwhai is a heartwarming piece of children’s theatre that can be enjoyed by the whole family. I implore anyone who’s in need of a good chuckle and some warm fuzzies to go and see this lovely piece at Circa Theatre.
The Adventures of Tahi and Kōwhai is on at Circa Theatre until Friday the 20th of July.
Disclaimer: I interned with Little Dog Barking on The White Tree in 2021. I have attempted to remain objective in my review but please feel free to comment if you feel otherwise.