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A passionate contemporary drama about one of Aotearoa's most distinctive iwi will have its world premiere in Auckland Theatre Company's stellar 2014 season. The bold family odyssey Paniora!, by Briar Grace-Smith, will premiere at the New Zealand International Festival before opening at Auckland's Maidment Theatre on 20 March.

Spanish whaler Manuel Jos de Frutos Huerta emigrated to New Zealand in 1835. Settling on the North Island's East Coast, he married five Ngāti Porou women simultaneously and laid the foundations for what remains an impassioned hapu with Spanish blood firing their veins.

One of New Zealand's leading playwrights, Briar Grace-Smith (Ngā Pou Wāhine, Purapurawhetū, Potiki's Memory of Stone) returns to her theatre roots after many years writing for TV and film. Inspired by the story of the Paniora - there are still thousands of descendants living in Aotearoa and across the world today - Grace-Smith has melded history and myth to create a vibrant, visceral and courageous fictional New Zealand drama.

With an outstanding cast that includes Miriama Smith, Nancy Brunning, Calvin Tuteao and Okareka Dance Company's Taiaroa Royal, Grace-Smith's newest work focuses on Te Mamaenui Martinez, the family's oldest living descendent. Prosperous and proud, the Martinez family lives in an elegant homestead where they speak Spanish, cook tapas and dance the flamenco. Yet beneath their fervent pride they have demons to face and a family revolution looming. The one thing that can bring the Paniora together - their casta, or spirit - is the thing that is driving them apart.

Auckland Theatre Company Artistic Director and Paniora! Director, Colin McColl, said, "The last time Auckland Theatre Company audiences had the opportunity to experience a family drama this gritty was in 2011 with August: Osage County. We are so pleased we can present this thrilling new work by the brilliant Briar Grace-Smith in both Wellington and Auckland."

Guided by the play's magical narrative thread and Spanish-Māori roots, McColl has engaged the talented Taane Mete and dancers from Okareka Dance Company to devise a fusion of haka and flamenco for a dramatic onstage bull-fight.

The New Zealand International Arts Festival season of Paniora! runs from 26 February to 2 March. The show then moves to Auckland where it will play Maidment Theatre from 20 March to 12 April.


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