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Print Version
Photo by Matt Grace
Photo by Matt Grace
Written & directed by Hone Kouka
inspired by the Patricia Grace novel
Tawata Productions

at Circa One, Wellington
From 15 Jun 2013 to 29 Jun 2013
[2 hours, no interval]

Reviewed by Hannah Smith, 17 Jun 2013

War and conflict, love and identity: these huge themes writ large in history books are concentrated in the experiences of one family and how they are affected by war. 

After an acclaimed season in the 2012 NZ International Arts Festival, Tawata Productions bring back to the Wellington stage with a production at Circa One.

A father goes to war and returns a changed man – and the devastation this wreaks on his family reverberates down the generations, changing the lives of his wife, children, and grandchildren. War is a terrible force of destruction, but failed communication and being too cowardly to express your love can also rip a family apart. In we see both the bright and dark faces of familial love and sense of duty.

Writer/director Hone Kouka (inspired by the Patricia Grace novel, ), creates a world of high tension and wrought emotions.  The performances are strong and the ensemble cast work seamlessly together. Non-verbal sequences show us the tangled and troubled history of the characters; the rhythms, imagery and theatricality of these arrangements connects powerfully with the audience and drive the energy forward.

Some scenes work beautifully – the developing relationship between Jess (Aroha White) and Philomel (Jarod Rawiri) is exquisite. The precision of the choreography as they circle the bakery counter is beautiful counterpoint to the text, and all the awkwardness, pride and tentative vulnerability that heralds the blossoming of a new relationship.

In other scenes the self-conscious poetry of the dialogue interferes with the natural charm of the characters, and the words do not feel as effortless as the physical action that accompanies them. The structure is also confusing in places, and plot points (the decision of certain characters to join the forces) does not get sufficient explanation or weight.

Mark McEntyre's set provides an excellent backdrop to the action, and the traverse staging suits a production built from dance-like sequences of advance and retreat. Karnan Saba's sound design underscores the emotional shifts, and Ulli Briese' lighting design signals jumps between tone, time period and action with clarity.

While I feel the story telling would benefit from greater clarity in the script, the acting and direction in this production is exceptional. Strong ensemble work and striking stage choreography make this potent emotional story into a resounding piece of theatre.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.

See also reviews by:
 Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);
 John Smythe
 Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);
 Tamati Patuwai
 Janet McAllister (New Zealand Herald);
 Simon Wilson (Metro Arts);