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World Premiere of the new play by Hone Kouka

World Premiere of the new play by Hone Kouka:

MEDIA RELEASE Tihei mauri ora! E nga mana e nga reo e nga karangatangamaha o nga hau e wha! Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa!

World Premiere of the new play by Hone Kouka: I, George Nepia as part of the REAL New Zealand Festival

"When I hear others debating who will play fullback for the Kingdom of Heaven versus the rest I turn to stone. It is not me to question of whether Nepia was the best fullback in history. It is a question of which of the others is fit to lace up his Cotton Oxford boots." Denzil Batchelor (English Rugby Journalist)

In November 1982, acclaimed Maori playwright Hone Kouka was home from boarding school in Dunedin, watching television - keenly awaiting the Maori All Blacks who were about to take on Wales in Swansea.

It is not so much the game that remains fixed in Hone's memory, but the standing ovation that an elderly Maori gentleman, dapper in a long coat and hat, received from the 30,000 strong Welsh stadium.

The standing ovation was for George Nepia: A husband, a father, a fullback, a singer, a rebel - an invincible.

The world premiere of Hone Kouka's latest work I, George Nepia opens in Wellington in September, followed by a limited season in Auckland. Celebrating the life of an East Coast boy who rose from humble beginnings to become one of rugby's first superstars, I, George Nepia is at Circa Theatre, Wellington from 7 to 16 September and at Auckland's Q Theatre from 20 to 24 September.

Hone has taken that early memory of George Nepia's appearance in that Welsh stadium and has crafted it into an eloquent homage to the rugby icon who left the East Coast in 1924 at 19 years of age, sailing aboard the Remuera for three months, to play in all 30 games at fullback for the All Blacks team that became known as The Invincibles.

The play is Hone's first stage play in seven years and he is thoughtful when asked why he has created this play. "I, George Nepia is not only timed to tie in with Rugby World Cup 2011, but in our world today we need heroes for our young people. We need to remind today's youth that greatness can come from the most humble of beginnings."

The story of the man of deep spirituality, the talented singer, the family man and the rugby star is a personal one for playwright Hone Kouka who is George's great nephew.

"I grew up with everybody talking about Uncle George. I was inspired to learn more about him after seeing a stadium of strangers in Wales rise to their feet and cheer for this old Maori man from Nuhaka so many years after he had first graced their fields."

I, George Nepia is directed by Jason Te Kare and performed by Jarod Rawiri (The Arrival, The Brother's Size) and features design by Robert Larsen (Apollo 13) and original compositions by Miriama Ketu-McKenzie (The Lonesome Buckwhips).

I, George Nepia is a highlight event of the REAL New Zealand Festival, which runs alongside Rugby World Cup 2011.

I, George Nepia is at Circa Theatre in Wellington from 7-16 September and Q Theatre in Auckland from 20-24 September.


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