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March 23, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Kia Ora Khalid

Kia Ora Khalid was an opera. A children’s opera, actually. I had a foreboding feeling I was going to be told that a big purple dinosaur loved me. When the curtains rose, it was clear I was in no such luck.

There is a great unspoken irony in Kia Ora Khalid. A play about racial harmony, about how we are all refugees, it casts a white actor—Martyn Wood—as Khalid, an Afgani refugee. Wood blacks up to play Khalid, a move rather wildly unnecessary, as all the leads perform multiple roles, and the young audience this is aimed at would have no problem suspending their disbelief that little bit more.

They all sing very well. So at least I could listen without wincing. However, I did want to punch the New Zealander played by Jason Chasland in the face. A sexist, racist ten-year-old, he sauntered around and pulled absurd faces, his racism was immovable, and when he said, “well if you don’t like it here, piss off.” I was forced to confront my own racism and attitude towards refugees. So, in a small way, the show could make a difference.

The children on the stage, and the embarrassingly blatant themes, were about the only things that made it a kid’s show. In the midst of the death and sadness, the children happily threw themselves into being a set. Like diligent little mice, they created the impression of a car, a boat and soldiers. It would have been moving and somewhat clever if they hadn’t kept looking out at the audience to spot mummy and daddy. Also, there is something deeply unsettling about seeing young children reenact the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in song form.

The show had a heart of gold, really. Children should be encouraged to share and include, but this wasn’t the catalyst. The woman next to me remarked to her child, “I don’t think the audience liked that very much. I think they thought it sucked.” And she was right. The plot was insulting to a five-year-old’s intelligence. The final revelation, “ooooh, the fat kid has a past,” brought the play to the odd conclusion, that, deep down, we have all had shit times. Therefore, let’s fester in our individual cesspits of hatred and play a good ol’ game of touch. When the boys finally bonded, it was to defeat the girls, so, at the end of the day, sexism won over racism. A happy day for all.

Directed by Sara Brodie
Written by Dave Armstrong
With Martyn Wood, Jason Chasland, Kali Kopae and Nikita Tu-Bryant
Music by Gareth Farr

Wellington Opera House
Sat 14 March at 7pm, Sat 21 March 2pm and 7pm
Part of the Capital E National Arts Festival


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Comments (47)

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  1. Stephen Blackburn says:

    Firstly any reviewr should check their facts. Martyn Wood who played Khalid in this work was not wearing any make up yet alone ” blacked up” for the role.
    Secondly your review contradicts itself in several areas, not least of which was the comment that it did force you to confront your own racism….yet dismisses this later as making a small difference. May be to you but I would suggest not the near 6000 young people who saw the show.And as for you arriving with an expectation of a work that “…tells you that a big purple dinosaur loves you…”
    says alot more about your expectation of childrens theatre than the production you were suppose to be reviewing.

  2. Angela T says:

    Well aren’t you a bitter and twisted little critic voicing her views! I went along to a public preview to support my friends child, who, could have been one of those children “looking out at the audience to spot mummy and daddy”….give them a break lady!! They are young and most had never been on stage in their life…. they were lucky to get the opportunity to work in a professional show and don’t need you slagging off how proud they were to be on stage.
    Anyway I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
    “Embarrassingly blatant themes”…please….they are some of the most important and disturbing historical occurrences and I am glad that NZ children are able to learn about them through the magic of theatre…. of course it is disturbing to see children re-enact the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge through song (rather haunting I thought)…but remember you went to see an OPERA which is all SUNG…so unfortunately you just have to suck it up and deal with it!
    Question – Are you a bitter feminist?? Because you only seemed to insult the men actors!! …. “Sexism won over racism”…oh dear!! You did miss the entire point of the piece!!…perhaps because you were wrapped up in a little Negative ball and were “unable to suspend your disbelief”
    Oh and to put you straight……“I don’t think the audience liked that very much. I think they thought it sucked”….hmmm…you had obviously exploded in your little ball before the STANDING OVATION!

  3. Priscilla H. says:

    I went to see Kia Ora Khalid with no expectations at all. I went to support a friend’s student who was also part of the children’s chorus. The only thing I knew was that it was directed at a younger audience so I did not expect to me moved as much as I was.
    This show I later learned gave these children an opportunity to perform in a “professional” environment where in normal circumstances they would not have been offered such a chance. The stories in the show, I also discovered were based on true stories of young teens who were interviewed in Auckland. So to say the “…plot was insulting to a five year old’s intelligence…” well. The plot is very much based on truth. I don’t understand how it would be insulting to ANYONE’s intelligence. I certainly did not. I seemed to have done better research than you and I am not the one writing an article that is meant to inform your readers.
    The show is heading up to Auckland and I recommend it to anyone. Any gender or AGE.

  4. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Fuck, write your own reviews you twats.

  5. Kali Kopae says:

    Thank you Stephen for pointing out contradictions in this ridiculous review! Next time please do your research. Perhaps you would have been better suited reviewing a Big Purple Dinosaur.

  6. Stuart Grant says:

    I saw Kia Ora Khalid. I loved it, not least for its accessible representation of a series of difficult realities. I can appreciate that not everyone will respond in the same way to their experience of the work. I can even appreciate, as evidenced by S. McGee’s comments, that not everyone will respond in the same way to everyone not responding in the same way. -Objecting to the right to review a review: That is irony. It is irony I wish to comment on.

    My concern is that a student publication such as Salient would be lost without irony. Irony is very much the fuel of intelligent indignation, and in the case of the Kia Ora Khalid review, there is a strong indication that even a basic comprehension of irony is missing. A plea to the editorial function so clearly absent in this review: Please do not let this be the beginning of the end for Salient’s employment of this essential rhetorical device.

    The reviewer finds ‘great unspoken irony’ in the fact that an actor is not really the character he is playing. This is not ironical. It is theatre. If I can bring an analogy down to the level of the review itself, it is like the great unspoken irony of Barney the Dinosaur really being just a person in a big purple suit… -Used inappropriately, the label ‘Irony’ can jangle as discordantly on the intelligence as a morissettian jumble of knives and spoons.The reviewer would be well served to set higher standards for irony, and Salient itself to set higher standards for its reviews.

  7. Gareth Farr says:

    …”However, I did want to punch the New Zealander played by Jason Chasland in the face”…

    Well, what a funny coincidence! After reading your review, that’s exactly the way we all felt about you too.

  8. smackdown says:

    yeah who would’ve thought this was someone’s opinion or something

    why are you all so undeniably dumb

  9. J Chasland says:

    I have always enjoy reading your mag, however the “reviewing” in this article is that of the intelligence of a 5 year, I think maybe in the furture as my fellow cast memeber and the outstanding composer and creative team along with the thousands of people who have seen this production seem to agree you shoud stick with what you know and your intellectual level,
    Enjoy Barney re-runs.
    P.S. The feeling about punching,is extremly mutual

  10. Mr London says:

    “yeah who would’ve thought this was someone’s opinion or something
    why are you all so undeniably dumb”

    Of course opinion is valid and all.
    But this reviewer has completly miss any point of what a review is and who it was aimed at, also the fact this show was the outcome of over 2 years research, when you interview as child and ask them what they want, they will give you the most honest opinion/answer, therefore how can this show be “suck” I think Salient should consider a new reviewer one with some intelligence and understanding of theatre.

    On another note the performances especially by Jason Chasland were Outstanding!

    kind regards

  11. Jackson Wood says:

    It would be great if you all could refrain from making personal attacks on my writers.

    Maybe if you think you can do a better job come see me in the office tomorrow and I will happily dole you out some assignments.

  12. Superior Mind says:

    I have to point out the fact that most of you were either involved in the show or supporting those who were so you’re about as objective as a cardinal at a gay pride parade.
    (Crap, that sounded cleverer in my head.)

    My point is simply to highlight the hypocrisy in you guys accusing Emma of seeing Kia Ora Khalid through the eyes of a jaded university student instead of being a bit more objective herself.

    See this is why critics generally aren’t open to rebuttals.

    That’s another thing, I do hope you reaise what the job of a critic actually is.

  13. Gareth Farr says:

    OK – well Jackson I’ve never in my life commented on a review before because I honestly do believe it’s the reviewers right to express their opinions – but the punching in the face thing was just a bit too much for me, I’m sorry. And you’re complaining about personal attacks? Come on…

  14. smackdown says:

    like that makes jackson’s point any less valid

  15. smackdown says:

    and wasn’t she talking about the character anyway

    the racist character

    the dick character

    sounds like she used “punch in the face” as a figure of speech

    you touchie feely theatre goons are ridic you’re picking the dumbest part of the review to come down on

    what if she wrote “i wish i could’ve smacked that kid with ian mckellan’s giant dick”

    what then huh

    what then

  16. Mr London says:

    I am not involved in the show
    rather just thought it was a marvelous piece of theatre
    and as for picking apart the “dumbest” part
    the whole review seems pretty “dumb”
    Jackson I think you should see through the ideas of both your readers and the people involved in the show, your reviewer has done a poor job or contructively reviewing the piece.

    kind regards

  17. Any issues regarding the review should be forwarded to our Arts editors, Uther and Fiona:

    Or, alternatively, you can voice your disgust and dismay (or perhaps even praise?) via a letter:

    Just remember to include your real name and contact details if you’re pennin’ a letter.

  18. High Brow says:

    Mr London: “I think Salient should consider a new reviewer one with some intelligence and understanding of theatre.”

    Do you mean someone who is as precious or pretentious as some (but not all) involved in theatre here in Wellington?

    This is the problem with the arts scene in this city (let alone this country), as soon as there is genuine criticism they all (those involved in the art criticised) come out of the wood work en masse (like the cast and crew and their friends here) and attack the review, reviewer, editor and magazine.

    I think it is a bit overkill and weak for those involved in this production to do anything other than ignore this review. If a student rag in, Sydney, LA, NY or London did a review like this then any one on Broadway, West End etc would just ignore it, cause if it really did suck then the big reviewers will let them know and won’t pull any punches like some reviewers here do (in the fear of offending the sector and bureaucracy that funds/promotes it)…

    One doesn’t have to agree with a reviewer, especially one in a magazine as niche as Salient, it is not like this was a review in the Listener or Dom Post…

    The whole point of a reviewer is to have an opinion, and also usually you will find they represent their demographic. In this case the review is in Salient magazine, and the reviews in Salient are generally not for the arts scenesters but average students who might be thinking that they might want to go to a gig, or try some theatre or visit a gallery which generally involve more time and money than most students have. And this reviewer seemed to have their pretentious detector on and basically said what they thought, that is not to say it is the best review or opinion, but it is nonetheless a review and can be put in with all the other reviews to get a general picture of what all the critics happen to think…

    I think the main beef the reviewer had as far as I can see about this was it was promoted as a children’s opera so had misconceived expectations of seeing either Barney, The Wiggles, some Disney production or something that is normally termed children’s stage entertainment. But it appears that it is a opera for much older people than say preschoolers and possibly even primary school children…

    That is not to say that it might not be a good watch for someone like myself were I to pop along to it, but a fidgeting 4 year old?

  19. Stephanie says:

    Oh dear, Jackson, this is A Low Hum all over again…

  20. Jo H says:

    Firstly I want to say I loved Kia ora Khalid, it moved me, it made me laugh, and most of all it made me think and question my own knowledge of refugees and how I interact with and in this very multi cultural society that NZ is. I’d love to see or hear the responses from some of the kids who saw it, I believe it was directed at 8 + “not figgeting 4 yr olds”

    Having recently written my first review, I felt a lot of pressure to consciously express and and explain my view on the piece, and any comments on the performers and ‘action’ was thought through carefully.

    The comment about punching the ‘NZ’er in the face’, I assume was directed at the character. The character of Tom was supposed to make us think and we probably know of those sorts of characters from our own school yards and this character is also in school yards today and this is the whole point of the opera, to show and debate these issues through the eyes of children. Played by adults and children work shopped with the children and thoroughly researched over two years, I really think this opera hits a core and hopefully will help create more harmonious interaction with all. To judge it as ‘insulting the intelligence of a 5 year old’ is very unfair with all the careful work that has gone into it with the research and work shopping with the children of several schools.

    I’m surprised that a reviewer wouldn’t have known more about what they were going to see, as they are usually provided with press releases and even if this had not happened then the programme gave a lot of notes on the process too.

    The music is fun and also haunting too, the themes are now and I’m still singing some of the tunes, so congrats to all involved and Good luck with the Auckland season. :)

    Ps yes I’m a performer and I also work with kids, so I was viewing this show from
    both sides of the coin.

  21. afghan bicscuit says:

    Stephanie: ‘Oh dear, Jackson, this is A Low Hum all over again…’

    LOL you are correct Stephanie…

  22. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Okay I think the parents of every child in the show have now commented…

  23. goku_karori_28 says:

    i snuck my iphone camera in and recorded this production then put it up on smirk

  24. Heather Duplessy says:

    I am going to come right out and say it, because I am one of the parents of one of the children who didn’t get into the play at audition stage. I am glad little Jimmy didn’t get into this play as it was obviously a load of bunk. Thank you salient for being brave enough to tell it how it is.

  25. Angela T says:

    So it is all a bit heated in here huh… Ok so Heather you didn’t see the show at all ??…. hmmmm…and have decided it is a load of “bunk” from the review…well I’m sure poor little Jimmys class mates will be happy to know that his mother didn’t support or appreciate all the hard work they did.

  26. Heather Duplessy says:

    I did see it. I also put in a lot of hard work helping with the costumes, so you can go take a long walk off a short pier. I’m glad Jimmy’s name has not been tainted by such filth, and such filthy people like you.

  27. Angela T says:

    Oh dear….so you helped out and don’t support it And call it filth…well what more can I say…they probably would have been better off with out you then….Ps…I don’t think I’ll take that walk!

  28. Heather Duplessy says:

    I helped out because if I didn’t the kids would have looked more foolish than they already did. Just like the Pope who was in the Hitler Youth, I don’t support something that I took part in in the past, now that I see how foolish it was.

    You should take that walk. You need it. Lunchbox

  29. Mr London says:

    “I also put in a lot of hard work helping with the costumes”
    Heather telling fibs now are we?
    There was no audition stage for the children after speaking with the creators I did my research the only auditions were from whatever school choir was invloved.
    The costumes were all designs and printed by Brian King the designer. oh dear…..

    Also I don’t think the upset is at weather the reviewer liked or disliked the production, it’s purely the fact it’s not a review it’s an attack and slam, which is tragically done.

  30. Angela T says:

    Opps Heather…put that in your Lunchbox!!!

  31. -Allan says:

    Who put the ‘dupe’ in Duplessy? -Was the expectation that comment-readers have the limited research capability of, say, a reviewer?*

    * Disclaimer to JW: Reviewer referred to for dramatic and comparative effect only. Absolutely no personal attack intended as I’m sure the reviewer of this piece just had an off day and has done much other much better researched writing elsewhere -even if not for Salient -yet)

  32. Dr. Peter Manglethwaite says:

    50 Hitler

  33. goku_karori_28 says:

    as a jew i find that offensive… frown

  34. Sando says:

    And as a person inexplicably aroused by counting to multiples of five, I find this arousing at best. Your milage may vary.

    Also, everybody, we can not forget for even one vital and all consuming second that children are indeed the future.

  35. Jo H says:

    Hmmmm looks to me that there are a few characters on here displaying their narrow minded attitudes to gain shock factor. Yes children are the future and us adults are supposed to be their models ……

  36. Mark Letham says:

    Dear Emma,

    It’s unfortunate that your criticism of ‘Kia Ora Khalid’ is lacking in, well, EVERYTHING. One thing that professional critics do is they CONSTRUCTIVELY pull-apart the mechanics of the show/film/album they are critiquing – as in they can justify what they are saying by detailing what could or should have been done better.

    Okay, on first glance you’re clearly inept at that so we’ll try move past it. Alas! I can’t help the feeling, that whilst reading your review, that your dripping sarcasm and snobbish mindset suggests you were born and (in)bred in a semi-gated community with your parents paying your way to avoid mixing with common-folk.

    So, you experienced a “foreboding feeling” before even attending the production. Why did you go then? Is it that you had little else to do in your time than attend and systematically slander a children’s show, brought to the stage by leading professionals of the performance industry (namely, composer Gareth Farr, director Sara Brodie and writer Dave Armstrong) or is it that you are far superior to them and thought you simply MUST contribute your words of wisdom?

    Being a children’s opera, then, I would’ve thought that “embarassingly blatant themes” would be neccessary to get the point across. Or maybe the production should have evoked ‘Hamlet’-style ideas and imagery to be satisfactory to you? I hardly would’ve thought that appropriate for a children’s show.

    Amongst my critique I must say I do admire one thing about you – your hypocrisy. You said there’s a “great unspoken irony” that white-skinned Martyn Wood was cast as dark-skinned Afghani Khalid. Do you not realise that these people are ACTORS? They are meant to be someone they’re not, to encourage your imagination of their character. That’s their job. I think the greater “irony” actually is that you think the production is “insulting to a five-year-old’s intelligence” whereas it clearly achieved its goal by forcing you to “confront [your] own racism and attitude towards refugees”!

    I guess it’s easy to overlook things like these when you’re busy defaming performance by people more talented than you. For the large part, you affront things at face value instead of any consideration for the actual purpose of the play. It’s clear that you walked into the Opera House with every intent of slamming the production.

    It’s unfortunate that your criticism of ‘Kia Ora Khalid’ is lacking. It’s also unfortunate that the bug up your arse has not seen sunlight in many-a-year.

  37. Superior Mind says:

    You know what I’ve learned through all this? It’s that the fairest reviews are going to be those written by people who weren’t involved in the prodution, have no opinion on the prodution and, preferably, didn’t even see the production.

    In other words: me.

  38. another Jo H says:

    While I agree that this was a pretty ignorant and shallow review, the paragraph about Jay Chasland actually seemed to be a back-handed compliment on the quality of his acting if she felt like punching the character (yes, the character, not the actor)

    but as High Brow said, it’s probably best to ignore reviews of this calibre in a student rag (which ironically, I haven’t done …)

  39. Mikey says:

    Very poor form. In your comment you have stooped far below the level you claim Emma to be on. Seriously, making personal attacks on a reviewer who has expressed her honest opinion is very low, and does not in any way support your argument.
    If you had bothered to read any of the other comments on this page, you would have seen that a few very valid points have been made which preemptively invalidate your comments.
    Firstly, just because someone says something, does not make it true. Emma is entitled to express her opinions on the show, which she has done honestly and from her own point of view, not from that of an eight year old. She should not be condemned or slandered for doing this. I should also point out that a lot of her comments were in fact positive.
    Secondly, consider the target audience of the performance. Now consider Salient’s target audience. They’re not the same people, are they? So Emma’s review was just, in that most university students are not in fact eight years old.
    Thirdly, people can make up their own opinions. Just because a show got a bad review doesn’t mean that people won’t go to see it. I think Emma made it clear that this is a show intended for children, and if people still don’t want to see it then that’s up to them. And I refer back to my first point.

    I guess it’s easy to overlook things like these when you’re busy defaming a review by a person more talented than you.

  40. Shitkicker McGee says:

    This is fucking sad. Why are you people allowed children? You’re flogging a fucking dead horse, and I’m pretty sure the Greens got rid of the law that allowed you to beat your horse.

  41. Dr. Peter Manglethwaite says:

    Mark you fucking piece of shit. Do you not get what a 50 Hitler post is, you complete and utter fucking moron.

    It marks the end of all discussion on the topic. The Ed. JW, asked people to refrain from making personal attacks, and you just had to fucking go there didn’t you.

    You are totally pathetic. You talk about hypocrisy and you indulge in it yourself. For fucks sake people. THIS IS A STUDENT MAGAZINE. The audience is for students. One must ask the question: “how many of these negative comments, which are mainly personal attacks against the author, are from students of VUW under the age of 25?”

    The answer is ZERO.

    Stop trolling you fucking moron and get a fucking life.

  42. smackdown says:

    I think we’re all forgetting the fact that Kia Ora Khalid is a pretty awful piece of theatre. The shittiness of the review doesn’t change that.

  43. Dr. Peter Manglethwaite says:

    Smackdown: I heard that Kia Ora Khalid was soooooo pooze that all the child actors now have drinking problems.

  44. smackdown says:

    kia ora khalid is fucking stains

    your children will never act in this town again, by jove.

  45. Mark Letham says:

    I do apologise if some of my comments above are taken as personal attacks and I can see that, in hindsight. I do NOT however backdown from my assertion that the review was exceptionally poor and any comment I did make stemmed from my frustration of that. I have no greivance against the reviewer, all I know of her is what she said in this crap review.

    Mikey – you said Emma is “entitled to express her opinion”. I was expressing mine. Sorry for not being politically correct in my response. Get over it.

    Dr Peter Manglethwaite – you mentioned about us being asked to refrain from personal attacks. Then go you and call me a “fucking piece of shit.” Brilliant.

  46. Commenting on this article has now been closed because there is no point having comments on it. There is nothing constructive being said.

    If you seriously feel aggrieved by this review, think about it for a while, then email the editor:, if you want the world to know how much you dislike Salient‘s reviews then email (please keep letters under 150 words and you must provide full contact details, these will not be published)

  47. goku_karori_28 says:

    smirk guess who’s back heh

    oh, slim shady? smirk, nice one, nub. nice one.

    do you people realise what real theatre is? it’s not on stage, and it sure ain’t near you, heh

    it’s here… on my stage… my globe


    wake up nubs, wake up to my reality. all the world’s a stage, and I’m ctrl-alt-del’ng your players

    heh, smirk

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