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Maori Battalion Play Heads To Pacific Festival


Maori Battalion Play Heads To Pacific Festival

Food, family and song are the links between the World War II play STRANGE RESTING PLACES and the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts.

Actors Paolo Rotondo (Italian), Rob Mokaraka and Maaka Pohatu (Maori) trace the stories and personal experiences of the Maori Battalion in Italy during WWII.

The trio are part of an 80 member delegation heading to American Samoa this week for the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts, funded by Creative New Zealand.

Fresh from performing STRANGE RESTING PLACES at the Dreaming Festival in Australia, Mokaraka says he’s looking forward to performing in front of Pacific audiences.

“Many people don’t know that there were Pacific Island soldiers who fought in the Maori Battalion during World War II and many of their stories have never been told,” says Mokaraka. “I think Pacific Island people will relate to our play because we share the same kind of humour and spirituality. Italian people are the same too. Kai (food), waiata (song) and whanau (family) are the things we hold dear.”

Staged in Maori, English and Italian, with live music and numerous hilarious and moving characters, STRANGE RESTING PLACES examines the complex emotional bonds of New Zealand’s wartime history. It also shines a light on the three universals that Maori soldiers shared with the Italians: family, food and song – not to mention wily cunning, a love of vino and a passion for the ladies!

It is Italy 1944, the battle ground between the Allies and the Germans. The Allied advance comes to a grinding halt at Monte Cassino with the 28th Maori Battalion thrown in the thick of it. A young Maori solider goes out stealing for food. An Italian takes cover in a stable. The two men find themselves trapped in a dangerous face-off, but with Germans just outside their hideout, they realise they will need each other to survive.

Extensively researched by Mokaraka and Rotondo, STRANGE RESTING PLACES is a compelling show that won them the Most Outstanding Playwrights Award in New Zealand’s 2008 Chapman Tripp Awards.

On the eve of their first trip to American Samoa, Mokaraka says he’s looking forward to meeting artists from 27 other Pacific countries and sharing their stories in Pago Pago.

“Pacific Island people will get our humour and they’ll understand the emotions we portray because we share a collective wairua or spirituality,” says Rob. “Whether we perform on a beach or in a theatre room, we’re there to give our best.”



Rob Mokaraka is of Ngapuhi/Tuhoe tribal descent. He has been part of award-winning theatre productions InSALT and ‘Have Car Will Travel’ (Bats Theatre) for which he won Best Male Newcomer at the 2001 Chapman Tripp awards. Previous works include ‘Questions’ and ‘Never Never’ (Bats Theatre) and the New Zealand Festival hit ‘King and Country’ at Downstage Theatre. Film and television credits include ‘Duggan’, ‘Mataku’, ‘Love Bites’, ‘Aikido Insane’ and Taika Waiti’s short film ‘Tama Tu’.

Maaka Pohatu (Ngai Tamanuhiri, Ngati Apa, Ngati Porou, Ngati Tuwharetoa) is a graduate of Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School. Maaka began working for Taki Rua Theatre in 1998, performing in Te Reo Maori Season tour of ‘Taku Waimarie Hui Hopping’ and in later years doing radio plays by Hone Kouka and ‘Te Kauta’ by Moira Wairama. He is also a fluent speaker of Maori with a strong background in traditional Maori performing arts and tikanga Maori.

Paolo Rotondo is an Italian-born New Zealander and an award-winning actor and writer. A graduate of Philippe Gaulier and John Bolton, Rotondo has worked in the theatre, film and television industry for over ten years. He is best known for his feature film credits ‘The Ugly’ and ‘Stickmen’ as well as TV 2’s ‘Shortland Street’.


STRANGE RESTING PLACES - Featuring Paolo Rotondo, Rob Mokaraka & Maaka Pohatu
17 July to 3 August - The Pacific Arts Festival, PagoPago American Samoa
26,27,28,29,30 August - Going West Festival, Titirangi Auckland
3,4,5 October - Otago Arts Festival

Thursday 9 October - Gala Performance, Te Papa Marae, Wellington
Touring around Aotearoa until 9 October 2008
For Bookings contact

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