“…from Tilbury to Teddington.”

From: London Lies Beneath (2016), by Stella Duffy:

“You know what they say about the Taniwha, don’t you, girl?

She shook her head.

He smiled as he said, It’s homesick, of course, but the Thames is too busy and it can’t get by the ships for fear of being seen and landed and brought ashore for our pleasure again. It doesn’t like to be looked at, not directly. And it’s bigger, much bigger now, grown full on the secrets we tell to the water. That Taniwha lives off our whispers, eating up the fears and tears we tell over the side of a bridge. It’s grown fat on what we hide from in the dark, beneath the bedclothes. There’s no getting away from it either, it will follow you along the Effra or the Neckinger as easy as it rides the tide from Tilbury to Teddington.”

From: NZ Herald, 12 Nov, 2011:

“…Born in Woolwich and raised in Tokoroa, Duffy definitely knows that feeling. She returned to London in her 20s, intending to only stay for a few years but she is still here more than two decades later. Now living in Brixton with her wife, Shelley Silas, she has written 11 plays and 12 novels including last year’s Theodora, Actress, Empress, Whore. She previously directed Matthew Saville’s Kikia te Poa as part of Shaky Isles’ debut season in 2007. She will introduce Taniwha Thames to the audience, raising a toast to the legendary Maori leviathan with water apparently gathered from London’s numerous hidden rivers like the nearby Effra.

“The idea is that it will be me playing me, the person who is the director and has written some of it, which is for the British people and also to wrong-foot the Kiwis by talking about the taniwha as if it is real, because it is,” she laughs. “The taniwha is created out of frozen water, out of the ice. We’ve got these real London facts that we’re trying to dot about, such as where we are now in Kennington. It used to be a marsh and the gardens that fed the City of London were here because of all the silt flooding, which made it incredibly fertile. As well as New Zealand and other places, we’ve got a sense of this particular part of London.”

Running for three weeks, Taniwha Thames is Shaky Isles’ most ambitious production yet and founder and actor Emma Deacon hopes it will be the first show they eventually take home. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for a couple of years,” she says. “We would love to be able to share it with a New Zealand audience in New Zealand because there will be people there who have lived here or anywhere else in the world, for whom it will have massive resonance. New Zealanders are such big travellers and such a large percentage of our population doesn’t live at home. It’s about the diaspora experience.”

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