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Film and Photography

Te Tupua – The Goblin: A mesmerising performance at The Monkey House

John G Davies is a consummate storyteller. Not only did he write Te Tupua – The Goblin, he also directs this powerful play, and he performs all 13 characters in it. He gives each character its own voice, becoming Scottish or Māori, male or female, cowering or commanding – even his stature morphs from tall to small and tall again.
 |  The Informer  | 

With extraordinarily facile facial expression and near gymnastic body language, Mr. Davies creates a canvas for the tale told so ably on the intimate Monkey House stage that there is no need for a set or props. So fully does Davies inhabit each character that there is never any doubt as to who is speaking and who is listening! It was mesmerizing.

Stories are how we understand our world, our culture, ourselves. Te Tupua – The Goblin is all the more powerful because it is a story about one of Davies’ own ancestors. The travails of the 10-year-old Scottish lad are drawn from history but are not a factual recounting of his enslavement in the early 1800s and 15 years aboard a British ship. His fight for survival after he is cast ashore on Aotearoa is not merely told but fully enacted.

This bilingual, bicultural tale provided a brief, poignant glimpse into New Zealand’s tortured soul for this curious visitor, of the trauma that lies beneath the Kauri trees and shimmering seas. It is part of a rich storytelling tradition that pre-dates hieroglyphs and papyrus and draws upon ancient Greek drama and Japanese Noh theatre. The past is invoked using an exquisitely crafted mask—the Goblin. The ensuing choreography tells the story even more powerfully than words.

Arts on Tour New Zealand is sponsoring this remarkable performance at 16 locations across the nation throughout the month of May. Kudos to The Monkey House for recognising its immense value and bringing it to Whitianga, and for including a talk back following the show. This was a unique opportunity to interact with the New Zealand treasure that is John G Davies.