5 May 2024

From a Red Mole to a Goblin in a mask: John Davies addresses our shared violent history

From Culture 101, 12:45 pm on 5 May 2024


John Davies' in mask and costume in Te Tupua The Goblin

John Davies' in mask and costume in Te Tupua The Goblin Photo: supplied

Actor, director and writer John Davies is celebrating 50 years in theatre with a national solo tour. Te Tupua - The Goblin is travelling to 16 regional centres, with Davies playing nine characters in English and te reo Māori. 

John Davies began his career with the Court Theatre in Ōtautahi Christchurch. He went on to spend 10 years on the road with celebrated avant-garde troupe Red Mole, before discovering Japanese Noh theatre in New York. After study in Japan he established the New Zealand Noh Theatre Company.

Davies has long been engaged with what he terms intercultural performance, exploring how as Pākehā he can deal with our shared cultural past. 

Born in the King Country - the heart of the Kingitanga movement - his earliest theatre memory is aged five watching his farmer father perform in local amateur group The Piopio Players.

Later in life, his learning in te reo Māori and our history, have come together with his training in Noh, classical Greek theatre in Te Tupua.  

In the play a young Scottish man - 15 years after being enslaved aboard a British ship circa 1800 - finds himself in Aotearoa New Zealand, fighting to survive within Māori society.

John Davies

John Davies Photo: supplied

Davies describes early 19th century Aotearoa as a dynamic time, as Māori became increasingly aware they were no longer alone.

“The recorded experiences are vivid and fraught with danger,” he writes, “yet these stories reveal deep alliances, friendships, marriages, and hard-won loyalties.”

This play is drawn from those histories as an amalgam of lived experiences.

Te Tupua - The Goblin is being toured by Arts on Tour, through the North and South Island until 30 May.

John Davies speaks with Culture 101’s Mark Amery on the first week of his tour from Whitianga.

Te Tupua

Te Tupua Photo: supplied