This show is a theatrical production incorporating kapahaka, contemporary dance, storytelling. It's presented by Te Matatini Society as part of the REAL NZ Festival
. There are 35 performers, including five children. The directors, Tapeta Wehi, Tukiterangi Curtis, and Renata Curtis, have realised the vision of the story very well. The performances are sharp and every performer knows how to work the crowd. The show is an amusing blend of kapahaka and operatic style. The set (by Apostolis Papazoglou) is ingenious, and is effectively used.
The basic story is this – Ngati Kaitipua are suffering after years of deprivation. Their chief, Parekoi (Tomika Whiu), bargains with Taramea, (Kereama Te Ua) the chief of the supernatural tribe Ngai Parehe, for the loan of the mauri stone, Rangitamiro. The stone represents the heart of the mountain, Matawehi, and promises fertility and plenty for the iwi who hold it. Taramea reluctantly agrees after his wife (?) Katipo (Tiria Te Kurapa) foresees that Parekoi and his
wife Manuhiwa, (Hiria Vaka) will have twins, one of whom will bring peace to the iwi. In exchange for the loan of Rangitamiro, Parekoi and Taramea promise to give their first-born child to Taramea and Katipo to raise. They also promise to give Rangitamiro back so that Matawehi won't be without its heart for long.
Ngati Kaitipua prosper as Ngai Parehe fade with every year. I loved the way that this was shown – Ngati Kaitipua walking taller, casting nets, struggling with an abundance of food; Ngai Parehe creeping and crawling along the ground, wailing. Ngati Kaitipua sing an hilarious waiata to celebrate this new-found abundance. Meanwhile…the twins, young Kahu (Puriri Areke Te Hapua Koria) and young Mira (Petiata Koria), are wandering around when young Mira captures young Kuratawhiti (Peata Waitai). For young Kahu and young Kurawhiti, it is love at first sight and Kahu persuades Mira to let Kurawhiti go. The young performers show great comedic talent as they portray their first meeting.
When Ngai Parehe arrive to claim the stone (and Kahu – as per the agreement) Ngati Kaitipua try to hold on to it. They manage to hold on to Kahu and Rangitamiro but in the process, Parekoi is taken. Kahu (now Taumata Soloman) and Mira (now Te Ara Vakaafi) are trained by their uncle (?) Te Huka (Dan Vaka), so that they are ready to fight when the time comes. This is a particularly effective sequence of events, energetically showcasing kapahaka and performance skills.
Mira is the first to visit Matawehi for her coming-of-age rites. She is thrilled to discover that she could save her father but shocked to know that she could lose her brother. She returns to the village determined this will not happen. Meanwhile…Kahu and Kuratawhiti meet and make plans to unite the iwi. Unfortunately Mira has other ideas and the show screams towards a sad, yet inevitable conclusion.
The cast take their bows during a more traditional (at least to my untrained eye) kapahaka performance. The opening night audience was treated to a bonus surprise curtain call that obviously no one on stage was expecting. It was a heart-warming moment that reflected the spirit throughout the production.
Sidenote: this production includes a professional rugby player. Ka rawe.
- Arohanui at the Opera House. 3 more shows in Wellington then it's off to Auckland. Catch it while you can. With the scale of production and the fact that the performers have day-jobs, it may not be back. (It deserves to be, but it may not.)