STANDING OVATION FOR PRE-BIRTHDAY MAORI PERFORMANCE
New Zealand International Arts Festival 2012|
THE MĀORI TROILUS AND CRESSIDA - TOROIHI RĀUA KO KĀHIRA
Written by William Shakespeare
Translated by Te Haumihiata Mason
Director: Rachel House
at Te Papa Amphitheatre, Wellington
From 9 Mar 2012 to 10 Mar 2012
[2hrs 30mins, incl. interval]
Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson, 10 Mar 2012
originally published in The Dominion Post
The Maori Troilus and Cressida is the first Festival production that I have attended that has received a full standing ovation, and even though it's a home crowd and might be a bit biased it still augurs well for April the 23rd (Shakespeare's birthday) and the inaugural production of the multi-lingual versions of the 37 plays by Shakespeare at the Globe in London.
Troilus and Cressida is not one of Shakespeare's easier plays. It has had a chequered stage history. Only in the last 60-odd years of its near 400 years has it been widely produced and has only been performed in Wellington in a fine production at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School in 2003 when it was set during the Land Wars with the Trojans played as Maori (and speaking Maori at times) and the Greeks as British troops.
Scholars are uncertain about it. They have described it as a history play, a comedy, a tragedy, a comical satire, a tragical satire, a problem comedy, a problem play, a philosophical play, and a “hybrid and hundred-headed prodigy.”
Whatever, Rachel House keeps it simple, direct and full of energy, using the full stage and the aisles of the Te Papa Marae to keep the action flowing. She starts with two musicians (Richard Nunns and James Webster) who provide sound effects created on traditional instruments throughout the play. A prologue follows in which the two opposing armies in the Trojan War perform a haka and challenge one another.
Then Panatara (Pandarus) and Toroihi (Troilus) appear with Toroihi cursing Herena (Helen) for starting the war and bemoaning the fact that he can only get to Kahira (Cressida) through the sleazy services of Panatara. And then the play is off into some complex situations (a crib sheet is provided) that get a little bit confusing at the end.
The costumes (Shona Tawhiao) are vivid and dramatic with subtle touches that hint at Greek and Trojan dress and the body tattoos also help to make it clear who is on what side. The acting is strong and vital if not subtle and will fill the Globe with ease. Rawiri Paratene as Panatara is funny, camp, devious, and in a word, superb.
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See also reviews by:
Paul Simei-Barton (New Zealand Herald);
Dominic Cavendish (The Telegraph);
Andrew Dickson (The Guardian);