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Maori Theatre Launches 2004 Touring Season

13 August 2004

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Arts and Entertainment Reporters

Maori Affairs Reporters

Maori Theatre Launches 2004 Touring Season

Auckland’s Koanga Maori Theatre Company will stage two plays – by Hone Tuwhare and Rena Owen – in Northland, Auckland and Waikato throughout August and September.

The 2004 touring season begins with Tuwhare’s ‘In the Wilderness Without a Hat’ at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori a Rohe o Mangere in South Auckland on August 20 and 21; followed by Tatai Hono Marae in Grafton from August 23 to 25; Raglan Town Hall on September 4; and Artworks Theatre on Waiheke Island from September 10 and 11.

Following its successful Auckland premiere at TAPAC Theatre last month (July), Koanga Maori Theatre will also present ‘Te Awa I Tahuti’ by Owen (Ngati Hine) at Capitaine Bougainville Theatre at Forum North in Whangarei on August 27 and 28.

‘In the Wilderness Without a Hat’ is Tuwhare’s first play, a tribal drama set on a family marae and inspired by events during and after the 1975 land march. Paora Joseph will direct his first play with a large and enthusiastic cast of mixed experience including Ben Mitchell and Katie Virtue.

Written in the late eighties, Owen (Ngati Hine) shares a personal story in ‘Te Awa I Tahuti’, through the life of a young Maori woman who finds herself in a London prison for a drug offence. Director Kim Downes Cullen is joined by Natasha Keating as Toni and recent British import, Sian Jaquet.

Bookings for ‘In the Wilderness Without a Hat’ can be made on 09 376 0332 and for ‘Te Awa I Tahuti’ through Ticketek on 09 430 4244.

ENDS

NZ HERALD

08.07.2004

‘Te Awa I Tahuti’ at TAPAC Theatre By PAUL SIMEI-BARTON

The Koanga Maori Theatre production of Rena Owen's play is a testament to the power of storytelling. The ancient impulse to find meaning by narrating experience is dramatised in the encounter between a prison inmate and her counsellor.

The inmate, Toni, is a young Maori woman serving time in an English prison. Mrs Bottomley, the down-to-earth counsellor, has a no-nonsense approach to therapy that is disarmingly effective.

Faced with hostility and mockery, her methods consist of nothing more than a dogged insistence that Toni must tell the story of her life.

Giving voice to the experience of an abusive upbringing requires a huge effort. But the exertion is rewarded when Toni discovers that by telling stories she is able to explain and exorcise the circumstances that led to her incarceration.

Te Awa I Tahuti touches on many of the themes explored in Once Were Warriors - although it was written and performed in England well before Alan Duff's novel was published.

The play is not presented as biography, but it does offer a tantalising insight into the emotional experiences Owen might have drawn on for her performance as the long-suffering Beth.

In keeping with the commitment to basic storytelling, first-time director Kim Cullen offers a sparse, well-crafted production. The prison setting is chillingly evoked by the clanging of metallic doors.

In the leading role of Toni, Natasha Keating conjures up her environment with lucid descriptions of the dents in her cell door and the 2021 bricks that make up the walls.

Her performance is utterly convincing in moments of emotional intensity, and her body language is particularly effective in revealing the emotional turmoil her words are trying to conceal.

Sian Jaquet as the counsellor delivers a powerful, low-key performance which underlies the conviction that every story requires the presence of someone who is prepared to listen.

ENDS

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