The PumpHouse: The Whale Rider – Tim Bray Theatre Company

Date: September 24th, 2022 - October 15th, 2022

Where: The PumpHouse Theatre

Auckland’s leading theatre for children, Tim Bray Theatre Company brings back a modern classic, The Whale Rider, beloved by children and parents alike! Hailed as the ‘most intelligent Tim Bray production’ (KickArts, 2014) – the show swims across Tāmaki Makaurau this Spring. The first port of call is The PumpHouse Theatre in Takapuna from 1-15 October, before touring to Due Drop Events Centre in Manukau, Te Oro in Glen Innes, The Playhouse Theatre in Glen Eden, and Māngere Arts Centre Ngā Tohu o Uenuku from 19 October – 12 November. Tickets for all shows are on sale now via

Destined to become leader of her tribe, no matter how hard she tries to show her worth, Kahu’s koro (grandfather) won’t accept that a kōtiro (girl) can take over his role of chief. But a rescue of the ancient whale beached in the Whāngārā Harbour, changes things. This beautifully rich story of whānau and tikanga is masterfully translated into a live performance that will absorb the viewer, from start to end. A poignant tale of forging paths and self-belief, this is the show all children need to see.

The Whale Rider introduces the viewer to eight year-old Kahu who only wants her koro’s (grandfather) love and acceptance. Koro, however, is too focused on his loyalty as Rangatira who claims descent from the legendary ‘whale rider’. The rescue of an ancient beached whale in the Whāngārā Harbour, changes things and as Kahu tries to prove herself she discovers an ally and a sacred gift: the ability to communicate with whales. In an iconic adventure, Kahu sets out to re-establish her people’s ancestral connections, earn her grandfather’s respect – and lead her tribe to a bold new future.

Perhaps Aotearoa New Zealand’s most popular novel for young people, The Whale Rider is a retelling of the myth of Paikea by Witi Ihimaera DCNZM QSM that achieved an international bestseller status, and became the most-translated work by an NZ author. Earlier in 2022, the novel made headlines again when it was included in the Big Jubilee Read, a collection of notable works from Commonwealth authors to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Much to the delight of all involved, Ihimaera has blessed this year’s staging of The Whale Rider, which is based on his picture book for children. Ihimaera was key to the creation of the show in 2014, generously approving Tim Bray QSM’s script and offering wonderful moments to the show. The company also welcomes back Tamati Patuwai (Ngāti Whātua, Te Taou) as the Kaitakawaenga (Māori advisor), a role he performed for the 2014 production.

Returning to the stage in 2022 due to popular demand, the return of this audience favourite production coincides with the 20th anniversary of the critically-acclaimed and award-winning film adaptation. Thanks to the incredible legacy of Ihimaera’s 1987 novel, this tale is now set to be seen on stage by a new generation of children. As these future theatre lovers experience the magic for the first time, their parents and caregivers will rediscover the magic all over again.

“The Whale Rider holds a special place in my heart. Creating this show in 2014 with Witi Ihimaera has been one of the highlights of my career. Witi was so generous with his response to our retelling of his story and also generous with his ideas for the show that still resonate through our current production. It’s a joyous, compelling, and unique piece of theatre for a new generation of children to enjoy.”
– Tim Bray QSM, Tim Bray Theatre Company

The tale of The Whale Rider is woven through storytelling, physical performance, music and puppets on a striking set designed by Rachael Walker. The cast of this year’s production includes Erin O’Flaherty, Christian George (Samoa), Awatea Timothy (Kāi Tahu), Jaeden Lawrie (Ngāti Ruanui), and Talia Pua. The puppets, designed by Ben Anderson, are bunraku-style, manipulated by actors who remain visible, allowing the cast to skillfully portray the many different characters who live in Whāngārā. As always, live music is a central part of the show, with this year’s production featuring Kim Halliday (Ngāpuhi, Rotuma), a skilled guitarist who provides live scoring for the actions, and soulful renditions of traditional waiata, including Uia Mai Koia.

“Bearing the company’s trademark stamp of ingenuity, The Whale Rider will charm children and adults alike, at least all who share its palpable regard for humanity, its compassion and its preference to at least try to be with nature instead of defying it.”
– Nik Smythe, Theatreview, 2017

“This story is touching in so many ways. It questions traditions while still honouring the importance of their historic place. It shows respect for elders, while still challenging their beliefs.”
– Jo Hodgson, Theatreview, 2017

Access and inclusion continue to be central to Tim Bray Theatre Company’s annual programme. This upcoming performance season includes accessible performances to ensure that all children and families can experience the joy of live theatre, no matter what their access requirements are. Accessible performances of The Whale Rider include NZSL-interpreted performances, Audio Described performances with touch tours and a sensory relaxed performance, with full details below.

Join Kahu on her journey of self discovery and possibly even discover something about yourself at the same time. The Whale Rider is the perfect chance to get the whānau together and head on an adventure with Tim Bray Theatre Company this Spring!

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