Owls Do Cry

Considered the first great New Zealand novel, Janet Frame’s Owls Do Cry follows the story of the Withers siblings, Daphne, Chicks, Toby and Francie, and their lives in small town New Zealand following a family tragedy.

Filled with fierce heart and visual splendour, Red Leap Theatre’s energetic response to Owls Do Cry is a surprising and moving experience delving in to the poetic world of Janet Frame and the Withers family.

Rather than creating a direct narrative staging of Owls Do Cry, Red Leap have taken inspiration from Frame’s rich imagery and poetry to create a multi-disciplinary dreamscape. This extraordinary tale is transformed into an exciting devised performance through Red Leap’s signature physical and visual styles, capturing and revealing Frame’s pertinent insights into society.

Created by a powerhouse creative team led by Artistic Director Julie Nolan and Directed by Malia Johnston.

Employing a mix of stunning visuals, multi-media, dance, live music and song, the play is a non-literal, metatheatical and visceral adaptation that celebrates the possibilities of live theatre. Cynthia Lam, Theatrescenes

Red Leap Theatre’s astonishing, evocative tribute to Janet Frame’s iconic 1957 novel, Owls Do Cry, is sure to join the roster of the great works of New Zealand theatre. Raewyn Whyte, Theatreview

The result is an extraordinarily brave, jaw-dropping performance that is simply faultless. There is not one wasted moment in the piece. It’s the best show I’ve seen this year. Veronica McLaughlin, The 13th Floor

With this thoughtfully constructed adaption, Red Leap have taken Frame’s desire for the liberation of imagination and fully honoured it with their work, taking it to a place where it need not be tamed and has the space to ferment and form into something beautifully rich. Rachael Longshaw-Park, The Pantograph Punch


Margaret-Mary Hollins
Ella Becroft
Comfrey Sanders
Hannah Lynch
Ross McCormack
Arlo Gibson
Margaret-Mary Hollins
Ella Becroft
Comfrey Sanders
Hannah Lynch
Ross McCormack
Arlo Gibson

Creative Team

Malia Johnston
Artistic Director
Julie Nolan
Set Design
Penny Fitt
Eden Mulholland
AV Design
Owen McCarthy
Costume Design
Elizabeth Whiting
Lighting Design
Rachel Marlow
Heather Timms
Touring Cast
  • Katrina George

The show throws up a kaleidoscope of deeply evocative images which highlight the imaginative processes that take place in the minds of readers. Paul Semei-Brown, The New Zealand Herald


  • Ōamaru Ōamaru Opera House October 2019 - October 2019
  • Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Q Theatre October 2019 - November 2019
  • Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Whoa Studios Masrch 2022
  • Whangārei ONEONESIX March 2022
  • Ōtautahi Christchurch Christchurch Arts Centre April 2021
  • Ōamaru Ōamaru Opera House April 2021
  • Wanaka Lake Wanaka Centre April 2021
  • Ōtepoti Dunedin Regent Centre April 2021
  • Kirikiriroa Hamilton Meteor Theatre November 2022
  • Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington Circa Theatre November 2022