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Captain Cook sighted in Wellington

A famous explorer who’s been dead for 240 years was resurrected yesterday, leading a walking tour down Taranaki Street and across the waterfront.

Story and photos by Mark Cubey

Next year marks the 250th anniversary of the arrival in New Zealand of Captain James Cook on HMS Endeavour.

To commemorate the anniversary, Tom Clarke and Jo Randerson of local show-makers Barbarian Productions have developed a walking tour experience that sets the famous explorer and map-maker in Wellington (a place he never actually set foot in), to explore local landmarks, and ideas about our past and present.

Barbarian see the anniversary as “a chance for us as Pākehā to re-consider our own contribution to the ongoing impacts of colonisation through the lens of the ultimate Pākehā – James Cook, Kāpene Kuki.”

Yesterday’s excursion was a pilot test of the tour, with an invited audience of members of the arts community – plus a couple from India, visiting Wellington to catch up with their son, who had arrived late at the i-Site and just missed out on a more conventional Wellington tour.

Despite their lack of cultural context, and being somewhat overwhelmed by the pace and volume of content, the couple enjoyed the hour-long walk and the vigorous and nuanced performance by Tom Clarke as Cook.

Barbarian’s plan for February is to have multiple actors on multiple tours playing their own versions of the captain, and with around four months to go until the various Cooks take to the streets, expect refinements to what is already an intelligent, informative and moving piece of work.

The tour ended with coffee, tea, biscuits and analysis at the Wellington Museum, which is working with Barbarian on the project.

If you didn’t already know, it’s a brilliant place (even without Cook in the flesh) to take the kids this school holidays and appraise yourself of Wellington’s history.