Name: Taniwha (pronounced tanifa)
Occupation: Aquatic Shapeshifter
Address: The Depths, River Thames, London UK
Favourite song: Row Row Row Your Boat
Country of Birth: New Zealand (so they say)
Specialist subject: Your heart’s desire
Exeunt: Taniwha, how would you describe yourself?
Taniwha: I am the temptress guiding your gaze downwards to the water. I am the voice nudging you to dig your feet into the muddy banks of the Thames and to jump in after that run-away ball. I am the flash of an iridescent back you thought you saw and the unexplained claw from an animal you’ve never seen.
Exeunt: How do you feel about being the inspiration for a new play by Shaky Isles?
Taniwha: It makes my scales tingle and tail twirl, especially when I hear the audience toast ‘we’re all in it together’ as they drink a glass of freshly gathered Thames water.
Exeunt: How did you come to reside in London?
Taniwha: The Maori talked of me first. Back then I lived at the bottom of lakes and in caves. I am a shapeshifter. I can be a shark, a whale, a lizard, and sometimes even a man. Some say I am a predator, but I say I am a guardian of dreams. I have crossed the oceans and become rooted in folklore and mythology. In this new city I merge into history and creep creep creep into your dreams.
Exeunt: Could you describe the production for us?
Taniwha: Directed by Stella Duffy as part of the Lady-Led Season at Oval House, this is an engaging piece of devised theatre with a strong element of the physical. A couple of sail-like white triangles, two barrels and two step ladders are all Shaky Isles need to move through time and space: from the 18th century ship ‘The Endeavour’ to the here and now of Electric Avenue. For 90 minutes, the performers seem to seep into one another. They weave in and out of time and use dance, song and stories to ask questions about whether longing necessarily leads to belonging. People and relationships change; they become rooted or uprooted. Always the question remains, what’s beneath it all?
Exeunt: And what happens?
Taniwha: Things begin in contemporary London, where relationships, particularly romantic ones, are discussed; the story focuses on themes of separation and unity between people, places and homelands. We are then taken through fantasy lands where the monstrous and mischievous Taniwha is there to tempt us down to the banks of the river to seduce us and steal our soul. Music and dance are a big part of the production. Song carries throughout and this is one of the real strengths and pleasures of what is an occasionally variable piece.