Find out more about our talented cast from “The Magic Faraway Tree”

The Magic Faraway Tree 2023 Cast

We are honoured to be working with such a large, talented cast who have come from both TV and theatre backgrounds, not to mention our third year acting students from Unitec who are also part of our stellar line-up! Find out more about who you will be seeing on stage!  

Rajeev Varma is the Indian dad in the hugely popular ANZ bank ads. He’ll soon appear in season two of Raised by Refugees and Miles from Nowhere on TV. Raj appeared on Broadway in Roundabout’s Indian Ink, Seattle Rep’s Pride and Prejudice (Best Supporting Actor nomination, Gregory Awards), Holmes and Watson (Watson) in Texas and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in North Carolina. Raj co-created the award-winning one-man show D’Arranged Marriage, which toured ten countries over ten years, including Off-Broadway for two years. Raj was nominated for a Chapman Tripp Award for his portrayal of Casper in Albert Belz’s Awhi Tapu and was in the original production of The Taro King by Vela Manuasate. Select NZ TV credits include the Emmy Award-winning Inside, The Blue Rose, Shortland Street, and The Millen Baird Show. Film credits include 1nite, The Price of Milk, Vindaloo Empire, Impossible Monsters and The Overnight 

Jacque Drew is an actor, writer, director, teacher, and creator with 40 years of professional experience in stage and screen work in the United States and New Zealand. Recent screen credits include: The Power of the Dog, The Royal Treatment, One of Us is Lying and the upcoming Choose Love for Netflix. Recent stage credits include Welcome to the Murder House for Indian Ink, Much Ado About Nothing, and Othello for the Pop-Up Globe. Jacque and her husband are the owners/directors of AYA Drama School, training young actors aged 10-20. She is also a renowned voice and dialect coach regularly working on stage and screen productions in New Zealand. She is excited to join the Tim Bray Theatre Company. The stage is her “happy place.”  

Jacinta Compton is a writer, actor and director, born and raised in Ōtepoti on Saddle Hill. She grew up riding horses and rearing calves before finding her heart in the theatre during high school. Jacinta went on to train as an actor at Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School, graduating in the class of 2020. Her artistry has taken her across forms of theatre, film, music and performance art. Most recently, she directed her debut short film The Girl, The Lamb & The Man which earned her the title of ‘Best First Time Director’ at the Berlin Indie Film Festival 2022.  

Jaeden Lawrie is a Unitec graduate and a Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts, Acting. His last play was Te Pakkhai, a Greek tragedy translated into Reo Māori. He has always had a huge fascination with performing and creating fun worlds. Whether it was making stop-motion Lego movies as a kid on his mum’s phone or telling his old man Giles Corey’s story in The Crucible or watching his lover and best friend die as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Most recently he performed The Whale Rider with the Tim Bray team and is itching to reunite with the team!  

Nikeidrian Peters is making his Tim Bray Theatre Company debut in The Magic Faraway Tree. Peters, a graduate of Excel School of Performing Arts taught under the likes of Antonia Kamu, Bianca Seinafo, and Katie Burson, has been heavily involved in stage theatre throughout his developing career. He loves work that is physically demanding and dynamic and his aim with this show is to make the audience want to get out of their seats. If you listen closely on the radio at the moment, he’s the “Get your census done” voice, as he loves doing voiceover work as well. He loves to dance, eat, and go to the gym but his favourite thing to do is be carried by movement. He’s looking forward to being a part of the wacky and wonderful ride that is The Magic Faraway Tree 

Isabella Temm spent four years studying performance overseas; : three years at a drama conservatoire in Paris, and one year in a master’s programme in London. Since returning to Aotearoa in 2020, she has performed in two national tours with the Ugly Shakespeare Co. (Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and co-adapted an original script (Titus Andronicus). Isabella works closely with National Youth Theatre and has co-directed their last three main stage musicals. Magic Faraway Tree will be Isabella’s second performance with Tim Bray Theatre Company. Isabella has received training in languages, accents and voice work, stage combat and physical theatre.   

Jacob Bainbridge is originally from Ōtautahi., He is studying to be a performing actor in Tāmaki Makaurau at Unitec. He is currently in his third year of a Bachelor of Performing Arts in Stage and Screen Acting. By night, he bartends and meets a lot of interesting people, some of whom inspire his creative endeavours into character and storytelling. He hopes to be born again as a dolphin.  

Shannon Freeman is 20 years old and is studying full-time at Te Pukenga Unitec to gain her Bachelor of Performing Arts degree. She grew up in Kirikiriroa and moved to Tāmaki Makaurau in 2021 for her studies. She has just finished filming a short film that is coming out this year which she acted in and helped produce. 

Luke Orbell Ko Luke tēnei, he uri ia nō Kāi Tahu currently leads a busy life, studying full-time, working nearly as many hours, and driving all around Auckland. He enjoys bringing the stories to life and being the storyteller his tīpuna once were. Outside of acting, he loves travelling and learning about his culture. He will finish his performing arts degree this year and cannot wait to see what the future holds! Hollywood perhaps!  

Manunui Rainey is originally from Tūrangi and went to high school in Taupō. He has been living in Auckland for three years studying at Unitec doing both theatre and film. Outside of Unitec, this year he acted at the PumpHouse during Shoreside Theatre’s ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ doing the play Antony and Cleopatra. He also joined this term’s MNE (Massive Nui Ensemble) at Massive Theatre Company, a professional theatre physical ensemble company and had a showing called Push/Bounce on the 22nd of April 2023.  

Gisele Proud is currently a third-year student in the Unitec acting course. She is originally from the UK but has lived most of her life in Aotearoa, growing up in Christchurch. Last year  she played Moira in the show Boys by Eleanor Bishop and performed in a musical theatre showcase.  

Aimee Maria Aranha is 20 years old and of Indian-Portuguese descent. She is in the third year of her acting degree at Unitec and is happy to be part of The Magic Faraway Tree. She got into acting through her high school drama class and fell in love with it. Her dream now is to create a space for women and girls that look like her in this industry. 

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