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From Alan Duff's Pen To The Stage

Media Release: Once Were Warriors
Attention: Chief Reporter
For immediate Release

February 25, 2004


Once Were Warriors author Alan Duff will be in Christchurch for the world premiere of the stage musical version of his landmark novel.

In 1990 Duff created what was to become a true cultural landmark. The novel Once Were Warriors caused a sensation with its gritty, uncompromising and ultimately tragic portrayal of the plight of urban Maori.

While the story has universal echoes for all families locked in the poverty trap, the particular plight of a people dispossessed of their cultural framework is what Once Were Warriors a unique story that resonated throughout our society.

The release of the movie version in 1994 helped cement the identities of Jake the Mus, the noble Beth and doomed Grace as icons in the national conscious.

This was a strong, disturbing depiction of violence, where aggression almost destroys a family but ultimately helps in its redemption.

There is, however, another side of the story still to tell; a story of passion - for love, for belonging, for a cultural identity. This is the story that we are presenting in the musical drama Once Were Warriors.

It is a passionate cry that needs its own music, and through music Jake, Beth and their family and friends are brought to life in a very new and emotionally challenging way.

Written by the highly talented and experience team of Riwia Brown, Richard Marrett and Jamie Burgess, and under the artistic direction of Jim Moriarty, here is a stage show that captures the excitement and energy, along with the poignancy and passion of Heke family trials, triumphs and tragedies.

The musical drama Once Were Warriors is an experience not to be missed.


Beth was brought up on the Marae and was destined to follow the proud tradition of her chiefly ancestors.

Beautiful, strong willed and independent, Beth dashed the hopes of her tribal elders when she turned her back on tradition in order to marry the ruggedly handsome and charming rebel Jake Heke.

Twenty years on Beth Heke is a mother of five whose family is trapped in a suburban wasteland of violence, booze and drugs. With regular beatings from Jake she has good reason to regret the decision of her youth. But his strength, passion and charisma still have a hold over her. Perhaps hope rests in her daughter Grace, who has the sensitivity and creativity to break out of the vicious cycle.

Beth yearns for a better life for her children and herself, free from the impoverished lifestyle that surrounds and stifles them. A yearning that only her inner strength keeps alive.

When her son Boogie has to appear in Court, and another so Nig joins a gang, Beth is facing the break up of her family. Lacking support from Jake, Beth must face some harsh truths about their lives and where they are heading. But is it too little, too late?

When tragedy strikes at the very core of her family, Beth is forced to confront the horrible truth: in order to survive and protect her children she must swallow her pride and return to her roots, with or without Jake.


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