Scoop Review: Whero's New Net – This Play Is Special
Review by Selwyn Manning
Sometimes a play comes along that really leaves an impression. And Whero's New Net currently on stage at The Edge's Herald Theatre is pure class.
It's rare for a play to cause you to think on several planes. It is indeed rare for cast, small-stage set design, sound and score to come into alignment and pull off a show that reaches into your DNA.
Whero's New Net does this. It gets inside you, plays with your mind, provides your own life with a perspective.
By the time intermission comes around, the play delivers quite a jolt. The characters you've been introduced to are not quite what you thought them to be. Those sitting beside me gasped one, two, three times as if physically feeling the blows. Another wheezed out a whimper then collected her thoughts. The theatre dimmed dark encouraging a mood where you explore the 'what ifs'… the characters… the why's…
The promoters write: "Whero Mahana is a musician with songs of grit and tears pulsing through her veins. In London to chase a dream far away from New Zealand, she is presented with a diary that confirms her longing for home. As the lines between her past and present fracture, her father s stories force Whero to make painful choices about where her dreams really lie. A new play by Albert Belz (winner 2006 Bruce Mason Award)."
Whero's New Net is an adaptation of stories from the master story teller, Witi Ihimaera, whose brilliance emerges by degrees, surely from behind the sight and sound.
With this play, things are not as reality would have you believe. But once the truth of Whero's world is revealed, once you see through the veil, once the mask is dropped… all the tiers to this tale merge into a beautiful space. How it turns out is a matter of perception. But for me there was resolution in observing how the mind settles within the safety of truth, honesty, and the support of friends.
The stories of several characters are sensitively told. From the outside, you see through the walls we place around the experiences of others, you feel the sadness of those who once migrated from the coastal rural regions of Aotearoa to life renting in the big cities, working in the factories and slaughter houses. This thread of Whero's New Net offers a glimpse and sparks empathy. It is simple, touching and true.
Likewise, the impact of today's cultural evolution is explored where Whero and her friends seek their dreams in the far off city of London. There, careers, friendships and sexual orientation is explored. It is 3-dimentional, palpable. This cast knows how to deliver, and uses eye contact with its audience to powerful effect as it sits wrapped intimately around the Herald Theatre's stage.
This story draws from real life. It offers you laughter, sadness, hope, and satisfaction. It teaches how life is like a net, woven together by many threads.
It would be wrong to single out and applaud a single actor here. You will recognise Blair Strang (who is brilliant in this play), and you will not forget Bree Peters, what a talent. But every member of this cast is a class act. At the end of the play one in the audience said to me: "I wanted to call out and thank them personally for acting this play." It is special.
Whero's New Net is best summed up as the old tradition allows with a simple "Bravo!"
My recommendation? Go and see this play.
- Whero's New Net is on
stage until October 4 at the Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre,
Director: Sam Scott
Designer: Tracey Collins
Lighting Designer: Jeremy Fern
Composer and Sound Designer: Tama Waipara
Cast: Wesley Dowdell, Kura Forrester, Bree Peters, Jarod Rawiri, Madeleine Sami, Blair Strang and Tainui Tukiwaho.