Maddigan's Quest: articles

Rawiri Pene

TEEN ACTOR: Rawiri Pene's face will soon be seen around the world after starring in River Queen.

The world is his stage

He's a cheeky 13-year-old just like any other but his face will soon be seen all over the world.

Rawiri Pene, who goes to Kelston Boys High, is one of the stars of the Vincent Ward film River Queen, which premiered in Wanganui last week.

The film, which tells the tale of an Irish woman and her half-Maori son, is set in colonial times. It also features Keifer Sutherland, Samantha Morton, Cliff Curtis and Temuera Morrison.

Rawiri gave up a paper run and started acting when he was 12.

He soon found himself on the River Queen set rubbing shoulders with some big Hollywood names.

"I thought Keifer would be a snob, but he's really cool once you get to know him," he says.

Rawiri is of Ngati Porou and Ngapuhi descent.

The Avondale resident attended kohanga reo and Kowhai Intermediate where he was taught to speak Maori, a skill he used in the movie.

Rawiri also learned a bit more about his heritage during filming, courtesy of fellow Maori actor and Whale Rider star Cliff Curtis.

"He went through a lot with me," he says.

Rawiri will next be seen in the TV series Maddigan's Quest, a futuristic type fantasy in which he plays a leading role.

By Leanne Warr
February 04, 2006

Kiwi pride at Mahy's Maddigan's Quest

My daughter tells me that they make animals look as if they are talking by putting peanut butter in their mouths.

The mind boggles if you consider even briefly that this is what they did to various lions, hyenas, crocodiles and zebras when they were making the BBC family drama Pride.

These days computers have taken over from peanut butter, but, oddly enough, because I know what the likes of Weta's Richard Taylor can do, I am even less inclined to believe my eyes than I was in the days when Mr Ed pigged out on super crunchy.

The makers of Pride BBC, using writer Simon Nye (The Railway Children, Men Behaving Badly) and natural film-maker John Downer set out with the commendable mission of making something children could watch: the fictionalised story of a (real) pride of lions in Africa.

Little did they know that Prime would show the two-hour-long programme at 8pm on Sunday with school looming the next day.

Equally impressive was the line-up of actors who were the lions' voices Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Robbie Coltrane, Sean Bean and John Hurt just for a start.

Though the makers' intentions were honourable, animals anthropomorphised to the extent they were on Pride are freaky and unsettling. One minute they're chatting like characters from Emmerdale Farm, the next minute they're tearing a limb from a zebra. More King Kong than Aslan. Listening to two old lions chatting to each other like a pair of aging colonels from an Agatha Christie novel, I did ponder the lasting bequest of British colonialism.

Shouldn't an old lion sound more like Nelson Mandela or even Idi Amin than Prince Philip?

The time spent watching Pride was also taken up with unanswerable questions.

Was there a script? Or do they send out cameramen to go mad in the wild, shooting kilometres of film which they then cut and paste into a story ("Here's a shot of the cubs gamboling. Now if we cut to this piece of the croc rising out of the water . . . then cut back to this bit which at a pinch could be the lioness sensing danger, and put in some menacing music . . .")?

I'm afraid it brought back those interminable Disney films that they used to show on television in the 70s, when a bear cub inadvertently got on a log in a river in Alaska and two very long hours later . . .

At least TV3 has placed its new kidult Maddigan's Quest quite properly in the 7pm Saturday slot. It's good to see that makers of New Zealand drama are thinking of younger audiences, who love the adventure genre, and, what's more, are using the class act that is Margaret Mahy.

It's been some time 24 years since the adaptation of Maurice Gee's splendid Under the Mountain, with its memorably Muldoon-like monster slugs and its exploding volcanoes. It scared the socks off my kids and served as a reminder that Aucklanders needn't be quite so smug about our sitting on a fault line.

Programmers could do well to remember that a new generation of children comes through far faster (and far more fleetingly) than a generation of baby-boomers and they could show such treats again.

I certainly hope that TV3's new kidult drama gets more than one showing. Indeed, the minute the series is finished it could go on again every day after school at 4.30pm, the spot in which it was shown in Britain.

There's something strangely appealing about seeing well-known New Zealand actors (Tim Balme, Danielle Cormack and the big bald bloke in the Sky TV ad) all done up to look futuristic, driving through recognisably New Zealand countryside in vehicles that are Max Mad meets Middle-earth, saying such lines as "It's quite hard work, ackshully."

Then there are bows and arrows in case your personal fantasy is Robin Hood, a fearless young heroine, a young hero who counts in Maori, and the required quest.

There's magic in the form of a sparkly beckoning blonde who wafts transparently round in the forest and there are two boys from The Future carrying the most scrumptious baby.

There's someone called Goneril, which is not a name you'd give to someone you wanted to turn out nice.

It's set in post-apocalyptic New Zealand (I'm assuming the SUVs have used all our petrol, there's been a force 8 quake, the volcanoes have all blown and bird flu has done its deadliest).

You may or may not be pleased to know live theatre has survived. A group of travelling players one of whom is the heroine Garland, The Last True Maddigan is off looking for a new solar power conductor, as theirs at home is nearly done for. They're set upon by Road Rats, a group of bad lots on trail bikes, and Garland's Ring Master Dad cops an arrow in the chest which leads to his demise. I'm betting we'll see more of him though.

Yves (Tim Balme) has now been promoted perhaps out of his competence zone to Ring Master. He has a very whiny daughter.

I watched it out of a sense of duty, being New Zealand and all that. But it's got me hooked. I loved it. It looked like it might be clunky, but it's not. It is alarmingly appealing, driven strongly by both narrative and character, beautifully filmed and deftly edited.

It's lovely to look at and the fetching Rose McIver, who plays Garland Maddigan, is terrific. And not an ounce of peanut butter was wasted in the making of it.

By Linda Burgess
February 13, 2006

Rose McIver's Latest Quest

Looking for adventure? Then welcome to the fantastic fantasy world of Maddigan's Quest, a South Pacific Pictures Production based on a book by Margaret Mahy. Set some time in the future post the "great chaos", a team of circus performers known as Maddigan's Fantasia have been sent to save their beloved city Solis from a power shortage - how very ironic.

Powered by the sun - future idealism at its best - Solis requires a new solar converter to keep the city and its people alive. The problem is the closest converter lies at a far off city and since couriers don't exist anymore the giant task has fallen to a troupe already known for traveling as to not arouse suspicion.

So begins a fun-filled journey of fantasy and adventure, wrought with danger at every corner. "It's a great story and an original idea," says 17-year-old Rose McIver who plays central character Garland Maddigan. "Each episode features a new town and new characters. It's a lot of fun."

But is it fun tailored just to kids? Rose McIver is sure it has wider appeal. "Calling it a children's series would be misleading," says McIver. "The timeslot TV3 have given it would suggest that it's more of a family programme. My brother is twenty and he's seen parts of it and really loves it." She has a point.

Maddigan's Quest will definitely appeal right across the board. The journey (complete with two time-traveling characters who join the traveling Fantasia in the first episode) will ignite children's imaginations, while the brilliant Waitakere City backdrop and strangely apt search for sustainable energy will surely entice grownups as well.

Alongside McIver helping realise the potential of Maddigan's Quest are some of New Zealand's best known actors. Danielle Cormack plays Garland's mum Maddie. "I actually worked with her on Topless Women Talk About their Lives when I was really young," says McIver. "I was determined to be at my best, though, because she's amazing and one of those actors I used to looked up to as a kid."

Other big name actors include Tim Balme and Michael Hurst but don't expect to see McIver out of her depth. She worked with Hurst on Hercules and won a NZ Film and Television Award for Best Juvenile Actress in a TV Series for her role as Daphne in Xena: Warrior Princess.

Despite her latest conquests the 7th former at Avondale College is still working hard at school. "It was pretty difficult last year because I only got to do 10 hours of schooling a week for three months," she says. "But I am adamant I will finish school this year."

Not even her new found and deserved fame will get in the way of that.

Maddigan's Quest, which also screens in Britain and Australia, begins this Saturday at 7pm on TV3.

By Phil Bostwick
February 10, 2006

BBC lines up NZ drama for Thursdays

BBC1 is lining up a January 26 launch for a new post-apocalyptic fantasy drama series it has coproduced with one of New Zealand's biggest production companies.

Maddigan's Quest is a 13-part high-definition SFX-filled fantasy drama, a coproduction between All3Media-backed South Pacific Pictures, producer of the Oscar-nominated film Whale Rider, and Bafta-winning Australian company, Burberry Productions.

The show has been written by children’s author Margaret Mahy, and follows a troupe of circus performers as they travel through surreal landscapes encountering isolated communities. The series is described as "an epic family drama that will delight viewers aged six to 60."

"Maddigan's Quest has set a new benchmark for kids’ and family fantasy drama a great story, beautifully realized in HD,” said South Pacific MD Jane Millichip, poached last summer from UK indie RDF Media.

She added that the show, which features production talent including Oscar-winning designer James Acheson, underscores New Zealand's position as preferred location for fantasy productions, after Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

The BBC will air the show Thursdays at 16.30, meaning the show will debut in the UK ahead of its arrival on New Zealand broadcaster TV3, which will air it from February. Across the water, Nine Network has Australian rights and will launch the series in March.

CBBC signed up to coproduce the show, originally known as Maddigan's Fantasia, back in April 2004 under then head of drama Elaine Sperber. She has since quit to join TV Corp.

By Ed Waller
January 19, 2006
C21 Media

Maddigan's Quest sells to US

Maddigan's Quest, the high-definition children's fantasy drama, has sold to new broadcasters in territories including North America, eastern Europe and the Middle East.

HDNet in the US has picked up the series as well as MBC in the Middle East, IETV Israel, LNK Lithuania and Proxima in Bulgaria. Further deals in eastern Europe are pending. The UK's 2entertain has also picked up DVD/video rights to the title.

The show was produced by All3Media-backed South Pacific Pictures with Australia's Burberry Productions for the CBBC UK, Nine Network Australia and TV3 New Zealand. The family drama sees a colourful troupe of circus performers journeying to find solar cells to save their world.

Jules Grant
April 13, 2006
C21 Media