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HOMAGE TO A MAORI THEATRICAL CLASSIC

Print Version

New Zealand International Arts Festival 2012
MICHAEL JAMES MANAIA
by John Broughton
directed by Nathaniel Lees
Taki Rua Productions
DOWNSTAGE SOLOS

at Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland
From 25 Feb 2012 to 4 Mar 2012
[2hrs]

Reviewed by Tamati Patuwai, 6 Sep 2012


Tuatahi ka mihi ake ki te Tahuhu o te Whare Ao. He whakaruruhau ia e Manaaki ana ki o tatou tini whetuu i whakarerea ki runga. No reira, koutou ra e piataata na, oki atu ra ki raro i te parirau o te Atua.

20 years ago I had the honour of enjoying this colossal Maori one man show at Auckland's Watershed Theatre. In what has proven to be one the most enigmatic and thrilling performances in NZ Theatre history, the role of Michael James Manaia at that time was thrust into the world with hard out supremacy by none other than Jim Moriarty. Heoi ano e Toa kei runga noatu koe.

The restaging of John Broughton's deeply influential Maori play, which opened last night in Auckland at Q Theatre's Loft, remains packed with forceful dramatic power as Vietnam war veteran ‘Mr Manaia' unveils his turbulent and disastrous life before us.

Set in the late eighties, this tragic story shows Manaia wrestling with memories of abuse, the death of his brother and the torments of being a soldier in Vietnam.  

Te Kohe Tuhaka carries the dynamic character of Manaia with determination and proficiency. The ability to maintain the complexities of a man fluctuating between psychosis and hilarity is no mean feat and though at times there is the occasional stumble in character regularity, an almost 2 hour solo performance can only be applauded. 

Dan Williams' cement-like treatment of the stage with broken, floating palisade islands is a strong and complementary symbol. 

In general this homage to a Maori theatrical classic is timely and no doubt, as was evident last night, will be well received. 

Finally in connection to the grace and tapu of Taki Rua's respectful performance it is fitting to acknowledge all of our warriors, old and new, who have died with honour.  

No reira haere atu koutou ki tua o te arai, ki te kapunipunitanga o tatou te Ira Tangata. 
“Apiti hono tatai hono, nga hunga wairua ki a ratou
Apiti hono tatai hono nga hunga ora ki a tatou”

Kia Ora tatou katoa.

Na Tamati Patuwai 
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See also reviews by:
 Janet McAllister (New Zealand Herald);
 Ewen Coleman (The Dominion Post);
 Helen Sims
 Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);
 Richard Mays
 John Ross
 John Smythe
 Terry MacTavish
 Barbara Frame (Otago Daily Times);