Following on the heels of a feature film and a TV series, ATC's adaptation of Under the Mountain is a testament to the enduring appeal of Maurice Gee's Kiwi sci-fi classic.

The telepathic twins charged with saving the world are charmingly brought to life, with Richie Grzyb and Katrina George capturing a fractious sibling rivalry which has its roots in deeply felt bonds of mutual inter-dependence.

Kimo Houltham and Nicola Kawana bring a nicely understated Maori dimension to the work as they offer the twins the warm support of an urban whanua.

Peter Hayden lights up the stage as the amiable Mr Jones who mentors the twins and supplies hefty chunks of explanatory information on the inter-galactic back-story of the alien threat to our planet.


The twins training in using magical weapon stones is effectively enhanced by the appearance of a pair of red-haired Swedish twins who were involved in a 19th century attempt to thwart the alien invasion and amusing performances by Simon Mead and Joseph Witkowski add old-world charm to the contemporary story.

The villainous Wilberforces are genuinely scary with finely executed dance sequence presenting the nefarious shape-shifters as a cross between epileptic zombies and a stylish band of Marilyn Manson clones.

Director Sara Brodie effectively coordinates the contributions of a superb design team who deploy a movable set, impressive video projections and eerie sound effects to conjure up the play's subterranean action sequences.

Playwright Pip Hall evokes the story's appealing blend of science and magic and up-dates the setting with snappy references to Netflix and environmental activism.

At times the narrative drive gets bogged down by characters telling the audience how they are feeling but the show is clearly pitched towards younger audiences who will be thrilled to find a perilous cosmic battle unfolding in their own backyards.

What: Under the Mountain
Where & When: ASB Waterfront Theatre to Feb 21
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton