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Hone Kouka Concludes Waiora Trilogy

Hone Kouka Concludes Waiora Trilogy

The only writer who has had more plays staged at the New Zealand International Arts Festival than playwright Hone Kouka is a guy named William Shakespeare.

Kouka returns in 2004 with his fourth Festival play, The Prophet, the third play in his Waiora trilogy. It is a co-production with Taki Rua Productions and is presented with the support of The Todd Corporation Ltd and Creative New Zealand.

Waiora was one of the first plays to be commissioned by the Festival (1996), and was a huge success, touring here and overseas.

Internationally renowned Kouka said Waiora was a story about those who leave their home; Home Fires, the second in the trilogy, was about those who stayed at home; and The Prophet is about Maori in the cities. Each play stands alone, but also compliments the others.

The Prophet is set over three days on a basketball court where five cousins come together for the headstone unveiling of their cousin, Joshua, who took his life a year earlier. They are left to come to terms with why Joshua – the special one, the chosen one, the prophet – had done this.

Set against the backdrop of basketball, cool urban New Zealand sounds and the beautiful East Coast of the North Island (where the cousins return to each holiday), The Prophet is moving, funny and unforgettable.

“It’s a strong, accessible, yet understated piece of work about contemporary New Zealand life. It doesn’t have a huge message to hit you over the head with and it doesn’t tell you what to think, and I like that,” Kouka says.

“Not every Maori play needs to be an epic or come down with a heavy message and for a while that’s where the emphasis seemed to be. Waiora was a bit of an epic which toured for years and I believe The Prophet will tour for years to come as well, even though it’s a different kind of play. It’s not loud or big. It’s low-key and gentle but will resonate more than people think.

“I’m really happy with the work. I hope people will come and have a listen.”

Writing the play, Kouka spent a lot of time hanging out with his young relatives on the East Coast, where he spent his summer holidays growing up.

“Nothing’s really changed. Everyone would get together when I was young and hang out in front of the local dairy. The young people are still doing that today, the only thing that’s changed is that the dairy has closed down.”

It has been a busy 2003 for Kouka. He recently returned from the Maurtis Binger Film Institute in the Netherlands where he was part of an international screenwriters lab. There he worked on the screenplay of Witi Ihimaera’s novel, Bulibasha. His first novel, The Warmth of the Sun, will be published at the end of the year.

Kouka has won a string of New Zealand's most prestigious playwriting awards including three Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards and the Bruce Mason Award. Since his Writer in Residency at Canterbury University in 1996, he has lectured there in Maori Theatre on an annual basis as well as producing Maori drama for Radio New Zealand.

His plays have been produced in South Africa, Britain, Hawaii, Canada, Australia, New Caledonia and throughout New Zealand. Two have been translated into French and one into Russian. He has published four books.

The Prophet will be directed by Nina Nawalowalo, who after studying theatre in London and Europe, devised and performed physical theatre throughout the world. In 1994 she was awarded the prestigious comedy award from the London International Brotherhood of Magicians. Her work has been selected for and performed at many international festivals including the London International Mime Festival, Moscow International Arts Festival and British Festival of Visual Theatre. On returning to New Zealand directing work followed with a string of critically acclaimed shows in Wellington, which included A Space Without Boundaries, A Servant of Two Masters, Out of My Mind, Magic On Tray, King Baabu, Same Wind Different Times, Vula - 'Dance Your Sox Off Festival and The Wholly Grain.

The cast has yet to be finalised. Set and costume design by Ross Gibbs, lighting design is by Paul O’Brien and sound design by Warryn Maxwell.

The Prophet plays from12-21 March. The Festival runs from 27 February – 27 March 2004.

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