Arohanui – The Greatest Love

Opera House, Wellington

06/10/2011 - 08/10/2011

Dorothy Winstone Theatre, Auckland Girls’ Grammar School, Auckland

13/10/2011 - 21/10/2011

The Real New Zealand Festival

Production Details


Lead author: Helen Pearce-Otene
Choreographer: Kereama Te Ua


“Revenge is a festering sore that will kill us all Parekoi, remember that.”

So begins a moonlit night of bargaining between the brave Chief Parekoi, and his sworn enemy Taramea, King of the Faerie People. Little does Parekoi know that he is about to enter into an agreement that will cost his own people dearly and hurt the ones he loves the most. How far would you go to save your family …and who will remain to save you?

A dramatic and compelling story of love, revenge and torn loyalties, Arohanui – The Greatest Love is the story of twins Kahu and Mira raised to avenge their father’s death at the hands of mystical people called Patupaiarehe. But when Kahu falls in love with the Patupaiarehe princess he is forced to make the ultimate choice between his family and the love of his life.

Arohanui – The Greatest Love is a new generation of Mâori performance blending traditional haka, martial arts, theatre, poi and musical composition as well as contemporary Mâori art forms into an energetic and emotional theatrical celebration.

From a concept by Annette Wehi (Te Waka Huia) it has been written by Helen Pearse-Otene and jointly directed by Annette Wehi, Tanemahuta Gray (Maui – One Man Against the Gods), and Jim Moriarty.

Performed by 30 of the best Kapa Haka exponents from around Aotearoa New Zealand, Arohanui promises to take you on an uplifting journey into Mâori culture.

Created for the REAL New Zealand Festival that is on right around the country during Rugby World Cup 2011, Arohanui – The Greatest Love is proudly presented by Te Matatini Society Inc, host of the biennial National Mâori Kapa Haka championships. Te Matatini’s purpose is to nurture and develop Kapa Haka throughout Aotearoa and present the best of Mâori performance to the world.

WELLINGTON

The Opera House

Performance

7.30pm Thurs 6 October

7.30pm Fri 7 October

1.00pm Sat 8 October (please note time change to previously advertised in some publications)


AUCKLAND
Dorothy Winstone Theatre, Auckland Girls Grammar School  
7.30pm Thurs 13 October
7.30pm Fri 14 October
3pm Sat 15 October
3pm Sun 16 October
6pm Tues 18 October
6pm Wed 19 October
7.30pm Thurs 20 October
3pm Fri 21 October

Running time: 1 hour 50 mins

Tickets

$45.00*to $85.00*

*Service fees apply 
www.ticketek.co.nz
0800 TICKETEK
0800842 538 


CAST:
LEAD ROLES
Tomika Whiu – Chief Parekoi
Te Ara Vakaafi – Mira
Taumata Soloman – Kahu
Kurahapainga Te Ua – Kuratawhiti Patupaiarehe Princess
Kereama Te Ua – Taramea King Of The Faeries, Choreographer
Hiria Vaka – Manuhiwa
Dan Vaka – Te Huka
Tiria Te Kurapa – Katipo
Petiata Koria – Young Mira
Puriri Areke Te Hapua Koria – Young Kahu
Peata Waitai – Young Kuratawhiti (Understudy Young Mira)

ENSEMBLE AND UNDERSTUDYS
Fred Henare – Chief Parekoi
Te Kerera Haitana – Mira
Ngarino Watt – Kahu
Te Maiau Kahurangi Tutengaehe Houltham – Kuratawhiti
Rongomai Smith – Taramea
Annette Wehi – Manuhiwa
Dan Waitai – Te Huka
Erena Koopu – Katipo
Rikawerohia – Young Kahu
Te Maari Kaiwai-Wanikau – Young Kuratawhiti
Samantha Cotter, Ora Kihi, Hinemihiata Lardelli, Sonia Hereni Lewis, Rawinia Moeau, Ani Morris, Johnny Poi, Jeffrey Ruha, Awhina Teka, Christy Te Kurapa, Byron Toki Thompson, Waimarie Jojo Waaka, Hera Waitai, Tuirina Wehi

CREATIVE PAE PAE
Tapeta & Annette Wehi – Directors Of Kapa Haka
Tanemahuta Gray – Artistic Director
Jim Moriarty Mnzm – Tumuaki Toi Whakaari/Theatre Director
Helen Pearse-Otene – Kaituhi, Kaiako Toi Whakaari/Writer, Acting Tutor

PRODUCTION
Tapeta Wehi – Kapa Haka Director
Tukiterangi Curtis – Mau Rakau Director
Renata Curtis – Mau Rakau Director
Busby Pearse-Otene – Kaiwhakatauira Pûoru/Sound Designer and Operator
Alan Scott – Kaiako Reo Whakaari/Voice Tutor
Apostolis Papazoglou – Set Designer
Ana Hau – Ngai Parehe Costume Design
Martyn Roberts – Lighting Designer
Jayde Marter – Music Producer
Sarah Adams – Stage & Production Manager
Abby Clearwater – Lighting Operator
Leisha Conrad – Costume Design
Andrew Gibson – Technical Manager
Nathan Mckendry – Assistant Stage Manager
Horomona Horo – Taonga Puoro
Ratu Gordon & Greg Peacocke – Audio Production

EXECUTIVE PRODUCTION AND MARKETING
Darrin Apanui – Executive Director, Te Matatini Society Inc
Te Matatini Society Inc Head Office:
Kiri Rikihana
Rongopai Stirling
Eru Biddle
Titia Graham  
------
Sam Robinson – Marketing Director
Linda Morris – Public Relations
Hawi Te Aho – Photography And Film
Tiaki Terekia – Design
Cee Martin And Associates – Accountant  


Kapa Haka theatre , Dance-theatre , Te Reo Māori , Te Ao Māori , Music , Theatre ,


1hr 50min

Blazing the trail for Maori performance potential

Review by Tamati Patuwai 18th Oct 2011

Ko te tuatahi, taku i whakapono ai na te Runga Rawa me to tatou matua tupuna enei taonga i tuku, heoi ano he mihi kau ake tenei ki a ratou. E hiahia hoki ana au ki te whakamihi atu ki a koutou te Kapa Arohanui. I te kitenga tuatahi aku, kua miharo katoa tenei pia ki o koutou matatau i nga mahi o te atamira. Aue to ataahua hoki. Ka hohonu rawa o koutou ruku ki tenei  Ao o te Whare Purakau i te moteatea me te haka. I runga i te papa mahi i AGGS ka matakitaki nei te Ao whanui nga taonga motuhake o tatou te Iwi Maori, no reira e nga Kaiwhakapaoho, nga Pipiwharauroa, nga Ngutu Kaka, taku Arohanui atu ki a koutou.  

Straight off the bat, if you want to enjoy an invigorating and enlivening experience of the beautiful Maori world you should definitely go to this piece of what is aptly named “Haka Theatre”.  If you are a practitioner of performing arts and want to deepen your understanding of Maori storytelling and performance mastery, Arohanui is the best place right now to get this. 

I have to say as a performance technician and reviewer that, due to the depth and artistry of the Arohanui haka, I had to go twice. The reason for this was primarily that at the end of my first experience of the opening night in Auckland I was so blown away I could hardly put what I had seen into any semblance of intelligible sense, let alone write a review. When I saw some of the performers afterward, I have no doubt, I came across like a star crazed fan with nothing but “That was orsum!” spilling out of my garbled mouth. Not only did I yearn to see the Maori weaponry exponents and to be immersed in the amazing musical compositions again, I needed to see it a second time to let all the craft elements of the play settle in my mind. No reira, anei te whakatau… 

Te Matatini Incorporated Society, the National body for kapa haka have traversed from the competitive stage of the Matatini Maori Performing Arts Festival into the less competitive ‘theatre’ stage in presenting Arohanui.

Arohanui is a bilingual ‘haka’ musical utilising a myriad of classical and contemporary forms of Tauiwi and Maori storytelling. 

To make such a transition from “kapa haka” to “haka theatre” a worthy custodian was called for and fortunately for the piece, the supreme Kaitiaki of Maori Theatre is what they got in the form of Jim Moriarty. Moriarty’s expansive pukenga to explore the hidden wonders of Maori wisdom and to scale the summits of human potential is not only fitting but instrumental to making this aspirational work as superb as it is.

I am familiar with Moriarty’s approach to raise individual genius with at times tenderness and other times with necessary sharpness. This is evident to me through many of the performances of the players. Though generally wanting in fluency for the English spoken scenes the actors still remained committed in voice and stature to their respective moments and characters. On stage, confidence is usually the obstacle, but Moriarty has enticed daring from these artists creating illuminating performances overall.

In fairness to the actors it seems that with such a cast of obviously proficient reo orators and with the likes of the Matatini institution there might have been more opportunities taken to utilise more ‘spoken’ reo Maori. When reo is used the piece flies, when English is used the status of this Rangatira of a show wanes. In saying this I still enjoy the almost Brechtian handling of performance by presenting characters instead of wallowing in manipulative emotion. It’s a fine line. 

Though the content is clearly shared with waiata composers, Helen Pearce-Otene is the lead author of Arohanui. The premise of the play with its salient themes and statements is inventive and enticing. A simple plot structure allows the performance to move steadily with the most endearing moments of humour and tragedy to emerge through gifted and able performers. Although latent nuances of this complex and potent ‘haka’ theatre form are still waiting to be tapped it is great to see Arohanui paving a way towards this prospect. 

What is undeniably the trophy of Arohanui is the massive expertise of Kapa Haka champions. Led by Tapeta and Annette Wehi the choreography is masterful, poignant waiata are full of wairua and carry the mauri of the piece. I have never seen such a complete and striking ensemble on any stage; it is absolutely breath-taking. Given the competitive, high velocity nature of the ‘Matatini’ stage, performances tend to cranked up to the highest intensity and volume. In Arohanui it is a treasure to see these Haka performers change gear into more quiet, understated moments which is unlike the typical bracket pace, thus allowing more personal interactions between actors and audience.

The enigmatic Kereama Te Ua as the Taramea chief of the faeries is mercurial in voice and gesture. It is refreshing in this techno digitised age to see an actor able to morph and transcend right in front of my eyes, as only a patupaiarehe should. This turehu quality is consistent among all of the Ngai Parehe which again demonstrates their corporeal ability. 

The entire kapa, again, sing and move with mastery and articulacy but special mention must be made to Dan Vaka and Erena Koopu. Vaka abounds with smooth tenor prowess, particularly in the waiata tangi, ‘Mohou’. When Koopu and Vaka sing a duet to long poi performers their voices seem to weave together so divinely that one can only watch and listen in awe. 

Possibly the most distinctive variance from the typical Matatini stage is the use of technology i.e. sound, lighting and stage engineering. Tanemahuta Grey, creator of Maui – one man against the Gods, has taken up this challenge as Artistic Director of Arohanui to conjure a magical world with his team of technical specialists.

Set Designer Tolis Papazoglou is bold with majestic architectural treatments and clever engineering feats. Things are hidden when they need to be, and are at times exposed in full light giving a pure theatricality to the whole experience.  The Taumata Ahurewa shaped structure provides many facets to the imaginable landscape. In addition, Martyn Roberts has offered the stage and the kaimahi sultry lighting textures and tones, enhancing the emotive quality of the story. 

Though I would’ve appreciated more Taonga Puoro, Busby Pearse-Otene and Horomona Horo have composed a complementary soundscape for the players to trill across. As I have stated before, the classical and contemporary tunes are certainly elevating and affecting. However my heart strings were most exquisitely plucked by the gorgeous apakura ‘Mohou’ composed by Waka Huia protégée Tuirina Wehi. 

To reiterate, many of the intricacies and complexities of this enthralling blend of forms have yet to be tapped. It seems that our concepts of ‘theatre’ and ‘kapa haka’, ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ need more discussion, debate and experimentation. E ai tatou ki te korero whakapuare a Jim Moriarty:

“Nothing is new, nothing is old, all is potential that can be neither created nor destroyed; latent and kinetic, and waiting to be re-interpreted by those bold enough to do so.”

No reira, from subtle footwork to the pukana, from smooth vocal fluency to Mauri enhancement, our journey as Maori storytellers is an exciting one. There are so many wonderful layers within our haka and moteatea traditions that, with the appropriate care and desire, will continue to be revealed for the world to adore. 

Heoi ano e te whanau, I will be going to see this piece again with my daughter’s kohanga reo. I am pretending to go as a chaperone, but in all honesty I will have the pleasure of sitting, mesmerised again by some of the most important, most beautiful Maori performers and storytellers I have ever had the chance to see on stage.

I am honoured to have experienced this work not only for all of its many artistic merits but in the knowledge that Arohanui is surging in front of us all, blazing the trail for Maori performance potential.

Ka whakaahua koutou i te whakatauki nei “He pitau whakareia, he kokoti ngaru.”

Tena koutou e te Kapa Arohanui, nga pitau whakarei. Nga mihi whakahonore atu ki Te Matatini.
Kia Ora tatou katoa 

Comments

Make a comment

Kapa haka greatest treasure in epic tale

Review by Janet McAllister 15th Oct 2011

A traditional-style epic tale, this well-paced musical extravaganza is by turns cheesy, dramatic and genuinely moving.  Swathed in dry ice, coloured light and sparkly eye shadow, the Te Matatini show written by Helen Pearse-Otene has it all: twins, feuds, romance, faerie people (Patupaiarehe), magic spells and fighting.

But, unsurprisingly, the greatest strength of The Greatest Love is its raison d’etre: the kapa haka. Directed by Tapeta and Annette Wehi, the intensely energetic song-and-dance numbers are full of kaleidoscopic formations polished with effective embellishments using ankles and heads.  Few traditional musical instruments are used, but operatic voices soar in wonderful harmonies. [More

Comments

Make a comment

A tragic tale at psychedelic pace

Review by Jack Gray 14th Oct 2011

Arohanui is an ambitious new production aiming to bring together the best in Kapa Haka (traditional Maori dance), acting, song and music, contemporary dance performed with theatrical elements on a modern proscenium arch stage.

The national body governing the National Kapa Haka competitions, Te Matatini – thought this was a wise idea to market and provide a platform for Kapa Haka to a predominantly international audience gathered at the time of the Rugby World Cup. To bring this vision to life, they assembled a creative “paepae” of leading experts including Jim Moriarty, Tapeta and Annette Wehi, Tanemahuta Gray and Helen Pearse-Otene.

One out of a plethora of Maori theatre arts happening during this time, strikingly it seemed the majority of the Auckland opening night audience were predominantly Maori, friends, whanau and keen supporters of many of the 35 performers onstage, selected from the top Kapa Haka teams from around the country including Te Waka Huia, Te Matarae I o Rehu (current National Champions) and Ngati Rangiwewehi amongst others. Mau Rakau specialists Tukiterangi and Renata Curtis provide the martial moves that test the performers mettle.

Speaking to Artistic Director, Tanemahuta Gray (Maui, Kowhiti) he explained that the Civic Theatre, SkyCity Theatre, Bruce Mason Theatre and others all fell through because of high demand during this festive time, meaning the only choice was to stage it in the really humble and quite intimate Dorothy Winstone Stage at Auckland Girls Grammar School. While he admitted the Wellington Opera House was perfect as the show’s opening venue, he accepted the limitations of trying to capitalise on the prospective audiences in Auckland and the competition within the arts market for New Zealand work.

Scanning the audience, the majority of members were casually dressed in shorts, t-shirts, jandals amidst some more glammed up punters. It gave me an insight into perhaps why Maori audiences do not go to more mainstream dance and theatre performances. Perhaps they experience a feeling of uncomfortableness within that particular theatre context? 

Regardless, the audience is warmly invited to shift in closer to the centre of the auditorium (despite the different ticket reserve prices – the top price being a hefty $85) moments before the lights dim, as a gesture to warm the whare and greet the performers. The audience shout and call out to their friends onstage, take flash pictures and film the show before the ushers shut them down. Prior to that a stir happens, as the audience recognises Quade Cooper and friends arriving. I’m secretly stoked he is getting a dose of culture. Good on ya mate!

The show begins and is a 90-minute extravaganza with a story line, characters, good and evil and a bargain with thrilling consequences.

Without going too much into the narrative (there are many reviews of the show online), I became more focussed on seeing if the theatrical elements assisted or detracted from the essence of the traditional content and whether or not these issues were carefully worked through.

So there are main characters that exist in two different yet closely related realms. The Ngati Kaitipua (a fictitious earthly tribe, recognisably Maori) sing, dance, haka, chant, poi, and vigorously war with multiple weapons. They wear reds, ochres, grasses, woven cloaks and are adorned with traditional Ta Moko (tattooing), feathers and carry baskets of food, throw nets for fishing and carry spears and other implements. They have a chief Parekoi, his wife Manuhiwa pregnant with twins (a boy Kahu and girl Mira) with commander in chiefs and back up army at the ready. Things would be pretty fine for them, if there wasn’t also the Patupaiarehe (faerie people) clan called Ngai Parehe to contend with. These creatures are iridescent blues, silvers, seem to glow in the dark and are covered all over their faces with swirls and shining face paint that lend them their supernatural aura. Their chief Taramea is imposing and spooky with his face and gestures, while the roopu are fast and flittery, alive with hisses and more reptile-like movement.

So what happens? Basically a bargain is struck between the two Chiefs to do with the unborn child in exchange for a Mauri stone (Rangitamiro) that will give Ngati Kaitipua tribe prosperity for 8 cycles of Matariki, initially the deal gets rebuked and leads to a war between the two clans and the hostage taking of Parekoi. Mixed in with that is the childhood friendship between Paturpaiarehe princess Kuratawhiti and Kaitipua prince Kahu, eventually blossoming into a predictable Romeo and Juliet star crossed love story, complicated by a vengeful twin sister Mira whose bloodthirsty treachery ends in her own (and others) demise. Phew.

A tragic tale, the story lurches along at psychedelic pace – one minute happy and cheerful, the next mournful and heavy. This is one of the strange things about Kapa Haka performance, the schizophrenic shifting between differently contrasting moods and emotions embodied by the performers. At once fearsome, the next beguiling – it seems to bypass the need for simple transitions to crossfade between these major plot shifts. For me my most favourite parts were the Kapa Haka moments performed in a usual way, although I did cringe at the embellished American Idol style of singing in parts which showed pop music’s undeniable grasp on our musical interests. As the young ones would say “Stevie Wonder much?”

On a critical note, I always find it difficult if an “indigenous” tale is told and the language is either English or a combination of the two. Some of the actors didn’t successfully bind the two tongues together in a melodious or flowing way – in fact the best was probably the young Kahu (Puriri Areke Te Hapua Koria) a 13 year old, Kapa Haka prodigy from Gisborne, fluent in Te Reo Maori. His blend of a country-style teenage English with strong Maori inflections gave his delivery an authenticity that reminded me of the young actor in the movie “Boy”. Just quietly he was one of my favourites in the Haka. Generally all the kids were endearing and had a naïve sweetness that made the show really work. One of the young girls had an African American girl affectation that was delightful in itself, though incongruent with the time period. These little details of dialect, speech, and the consolidation of a way to shift between the languages needed more attention and seamless bridging. A full Te Reo immersion show with subtitles above the stage would be an excellent solution and not take anything away from the accessibility of the story.

The design elements were a bit at the bright colour end of the spectrum. At one point I felt the combination of the reds and blues and flashing lights with the mirrored staircase and moving stage platforms – made it look a little bit like some type of 80’s rock opera. I even had a moment where combined with the stage action, I felt the show looked like a scene out of a Japanese Manga movie. While my friend loved the design aspects, I felt that the aesthetic needed to be subtler and the focus put on the actors creating the heart of the story. However, ultimately – this was a musical and I acknowledge part of that genre is indeed the spectacle. Which brings me to the question of spectacle and of which genre – classical Western theatre or traditional Maori arts? I found the costuming by Leisha Conrad and Ana Hau to be hit and miss, the more Maori-like the better. Bike shorts are the bane of my life as a dancer and should be avoided at all costs. The best outfit was the gorgeous wedding dress of Kuratawhiti, elegant white dress with woven korowai, combining classic and modern all in one.   

Of the performers, my main pick is the Patupaiarehe Princess Kuratawhiti played by the gorgeous Kura Te Ua. Her first danced entrance was mesmerising, sensuous and felt like she was made of shimmering stars or like underwater glow fish swimming in a darkened ocean. Her delicateness, embodied femininity and security as a performer in both traditional and contemporary dance styles spoke volumes and added much needed weight. Her voice was the best pitched in terms of finding the right tones appropriate to her character. She used her eyes to amazing effect and captivated the audience – no mean feat as she came in about two thirds of the way through the show, after a lot of big performances by the eager dancers/actors. Another standout in the ensemble was Ngarino Brendan Watt who never failed to capture the audience’s attention with his clarity, speed, punchiness and presence. While some of the performers were either more comfortable in one realm or another, or some were obviously more used to an entertainment vibe – I appreciated the ability of these two performers to weave together the integrity of all the elements and showcase the intensity and the potentiality of this type of Haka Theatre.

While I could go through the show and find moments that could be more fully integrated and developed, the real essence of the show is left till the very end – when the performers finally are able to dispense with the construction and revert back to their complete strength. Kapa Haka. Served straight up – it is everything I want the performance to be and more. It speaks in its own language, conveys the feeling and vibe to audience in a way that only Maori dance can do (the ability to make hairs on the back of your neck stand up and tingle). I see mana, tradition, whakapapa, atua and aroha. These things are the essential qualities of Maori dance and can’t really be manipulated or improved upon.

My friend thoroughly disagrees with my post show comments and loves Arohanui wholly and completely. We rate the show differently out of 10 over hot chocolate (scores are 6 and 8). Nevertheless I do want people to enjoy it and I want to be supportive of these beautiful people. She comments that I walk an unusual line in that I am both a contemporary dance artist and Maori. I say that I don’t think anyone at all has successfully achieved the perfect equilibrium between successfully marrying together tradition with the new. But how great we can all continue to keep trying. Perhaps it’s about blending more to create a strong aesthetic or maybe letting this type of work mature. In any case, the audience gave two standing ovations and the buzz was electric. More importantly I wonder if Quade Cooper enjoyed the show and whether it makes him want to jump the ditch, just so he can do the Haka for the All Blacks? Ka pai just as long as the bloody Ozzies don’t win the semi against us.   
_______________________________

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.

Comments

Make a comment

Mythical, magical, majestic

Review by Lynn Freeman 13th Oct 2011

This is huge – operatic kapa haka blending the contemporary and the traditional, tied together with a message for our times. It is ambitious and it demands a huge amount from those on stage, who give it their absolute all. Arohanui is not only about the greatest love but is created with love – for Maori culture and for all of us, visitors and Kiwis, who go to see it. 

The country’s top kapa haka exponents were recruited for this production, a jewel in the Real NZ Festival crown. As you would expect, the kapa haka elements of the production are pure magic and those glorious voices fill the Opera House. There is though a story to be told here, a tale full of mythology with big nods to Maori and other ancient myths and also of course the stuff of Opera.

The children and women in the production turn in particularly strong acting performances. Especially from the children – Peata Waitai, Puriri Areke Te Hapūa Koria and Petiata Koria as the young Kuratawhiti, Kāhu and Mira are absolute naturals. Kurahapainga Te Ua, Taumata Soloman and Te Ara Vakaafi are also excellent as the corresponding adult characters. Tiria Te Kurapa stood out as Katipa, such presence on stage, the same goes for Kereama Te Ua whose King of the Faeries was disconcertingly other-worldly.

Now, Arohanui is not perfect. The story falters and loses momentum in places and some of the performers struggle with the acting demands put on them. But it’s easy for forgive when all those involved have set the bar so high. It deserves further development with a view to taking it overseas.

There is a huge team behind it, but the drivers are kapa haka directors Tapeta and Annette Wehi, artistic director Tanemahuta Gray, theatre director Jim Moriarty and writer Helen Pearse-Otene. They, their cast, designers and operators have created something mythical and magical – and majestic.   

Comments

Make a comment

Maori tale of trust and treachery enthuses crowd

Review by Jennifer Shennan 10th Oct 2011

Te Matatini, national organising body for the biennial Maori Performing Arts Festival, has embarked on a new adventure with Arohanui.  The production is epic in size and scope, sound and visuals, a choreographed cross between rock-opera and dance-drama.

The capacity audience on opening night was abuzz with enthusiasm before curtain up, and loathe to leave at the end. 

The large production team and cast brought abundant energy to the performance and three children had a particularly impressive presence as they moved confidently in and out of different movement styles. Much effective use was made of a moveable set of great cubes graphically lit to suggest shifts in time and place.

Haka, waiata, poi were interspersed with song, speech, mime in a narrative of a protracted encounter between Ngati Kaitipua on earth, and Ngai Parehe in the fairy world. There is a pact to lend a mauri stone that will bring fortune and fertility to Kaitipua, but the price after some years will be great – their chief must hand over his child to Parehe. The mother’s anger will prove a force to reckon with. 

The ghostly blue and silver Parehe made spooky contrast with full-blooded humankind, bringing resonances of The Lord of the Rings into the themes of trust and treachery, revenge and reconciliation, love and loyalty. There remained a distinct sense that the force for good might achieve a truce, yet the cycle of future revenge will be a hard one to break. 

This is not the first time Maori theatre has moved us. Bring back Porgy and Bess. And Earth and Sky. Memories endure of the striking haka in Grey Veredon’s choreography, Tell Me a Tale. This very weekend in Wellington, the Tudor Consort performed Douglas Mews’ poignant composition after the traditional lament of the fairy chief, Te Rangipouri, for the human love he knew but lost.  Back in 1898, a request for war dances not to be performed in Wellington’s Opera House in front of the visiting Vice Regal party, “on account of the dances’ alleged depravity” gives us all a measure to mark the century since.  

All traditional dances and musics carry the wisdom of forebears, yet are endangered species in today’s fast, expensive world of sound-bite, cut, delete. They need respect and encouragement to survive and adapt. They need interpreting and appreciating. Arohanui is on the case.

Comments

Make a comment

Wielding staves and ferocious masculinity

Review by Greer Robertson 08th Oct 2011

In the first few moments as the curtain rises, one is breathtakingly spellbound by the powerful image of white floating clouds. Interesting grand contemporary music empowers the space and performers clad in feathered cloaks move slowly to command their own space as they visibly connect with the land and their ancestral heritage.
 
As part of the REAL New Zealand Festival, before a vast majority of whanau and manuhiri, Arohanui extols their vibrant kapa haka as the main thrust coupled with dramatic narration and contemporary dance. Months of hard work, thought and collaboration has gone into this ground breaking show as the Te Matatini Society’s dream becomes a reality.
 
With such a strong beginning, my expectation is amplified, as I sit there in anticipation, willing it to continue on a journey of such bold magnificent splendour. Like any new collaboration it has its strengths and weaknesses and I’m sure if produced again, it will have them well ironed out.
The nationwide cast of 35 often deal well with the more contemporary way of delivery and moving, and Choreographer Kereama Te Ua, gives a captivating portrayal of Taramea King of the Faeres. Great costuming and make-up add strength of the other pivotal roles making their characters very believable.
 
For easy explanation of the storyline the spoken word is in both Maori and English. This is a very good idea overall but it has it’s pitfalls, tending to loose momentum and pace somewhat as the actors stay static within that frame of delivery. Background music and movement is in use however during these moments to ease that frame. Perhaps less verbose dialogue would avoid this?
 
The story is one of power, poverty, integrity, territory, courage, family loyalty and Love. Good use of mobile staging allows the 90 minute story to unfold, giving a transitional feeling of mountains, lowlands, forests and lakes. Well thought out, appropriate lighting by Martyn Roberts also enhances and creates the different scenes.
 
Chosen carefully for their likeness, Petiata Koria as Young Mira, Puriri Arake Te Hapua Koria, Young Kahu and Peata Waitai as Young Kuratawhiti, with a flourish pave the way delighting the audience before handing over to their adult characters. Taumata Soloman as Kahu, cuts a fine agile fiqure with a pleasing voice.
 
The scene where the children are taught to fight is very memorable as is a much later scene where demure sensuality is displayed in the long poi. Equally memorable with weilding staves and ferocious masculinity, the battle was well fought.
 
In the ensemble work, the absence of technical support and orchestral backing disturbs the shows balance of sound, when only accompanied by a solo guitar. In my opinion if starting so grand, it needs to stay grand!
 
But the true passionate fibre of every performers cultural being, glowingly showed in the curtain call where, their voices and their hearts soared in pure award winning kapa haka.

_______________________________
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.

Comments

Make a comment

No classical opera has ever provoked my awareness of self-inflicted tragedy so profoundly

Review by John Smythe 07th Oct 2011

“Stuff the opera, give these guys the money,” I heard someone say in the buzzing Opera House foyer after the show. Well, it shouldn’t be an either/or choice. But there is no doubt that Arohanui – The Greatest Love is simultaneously more profound yet populist than classical opera or ballet is these days in New Zealand; much closer to our hearts than Broadway musicals about Broadway; much more onto it for an audience that – judging by the opening night standing ovation – is into it in a big way. 

Reinvigorating such ‘items’ as you might see at a kapa haka festival in the context of a mythical story is an inspired idea, “born out of years of enthusiastic requests from international audiences to present kapa haka in a theatre showcase format,” according to Te Waka Huia leaders Annette and Tapeta Wehi, who share the kapa haka directing credit for Arohanui.

With Helen Pearse-Otene as the writer (and tutor in acting), Jim Moriarty as theatre director and Tanemahuta Gray as artistic director, the idea has grown into something much more than a showcase. This ancient story – delivered with power, passion, emotional truth and humour by a cast of 35, backed by a creative and production team of 20 – speaks directly to us, as much by non-verbal as by verbal means, about the forces that affect our lives and communities every day.

To liberate his people from deprivation and hunger, Parekoi (Tomika Whiu), the chief of Ngati Kaitipua, does a deal with Taramea (Kereama Te Ua), chief of the supernatural Ngai Parehe (the much-feared ‘faerie people’). In exchange for an eight-year loan of the life-force generating mauri stone, Rangitamiro, which promises plentiful food, Parekoi agrees to give up his first-born child to be raised by the Ngai Parehe (the interest, you might say, to be accrued from the loan of the stone which must also, of course, be returned).

The first-born, Kahu (as a child, Puriri Areke Te Hapūa Koria; as an adult, Taumata Soloman), has a twin sister, Mira (as a child, Petiata Koria; as an adult, Te Ara Vakaafi). As the Ngati Kaitipua bask in the abundance brought to them by the now hidden mauri stone. Mira shapes up as the stroppier warrior. In the forest, meanwhile, Kahu encounters and becomes entranced with Kuratawhiti, the Patupaiarehe Princess (as a child, Peata Waitai; as an adult, Kurahapainga Te Ua). The attraction is mutual, in fact.  

Parekoi hopes Ngai Parehe will forget all about the deal but the years without the stone have left them hungry and wanting what it rightfully theirs. When the unpaid debt brings Ngai Parehe to the brink of war, Parekoi offers himself in place of Kahu. And because the mauri stone is not returned, he is imprisoned in the mountain, leading the Ngati Kaitipua to groom the growing twins for vengeance.  

The lovers, Kahu and Kuratawhiti, hope their marriage and the return of the stone for the benefit of all will bring the warring iwi together. But losing her brother as well her father to these strange (and therefore feared and loathed) people, only fuels Mira’s rage and war prevails. And when Kahu has to defend his beloved against his violent sister, it is Mira who dies. Only then, amid combined grief, are the weapons laid down. 

As with all great tragedies, the visceral resonance of abiding truths is offset by despair at our inability to learn and live by the lessons such stories teach us. Dishonoured treaties, oil-rich nations exploited, over-reaching entrepreneurs sending contractors to the wall, financial systems feeding greed and fomenting rebellion, whole economies failing and the endless wars with their contrived justifications … All these present-day issues flash through the drama to enhance my engagement with it. No classical opera has ever provoked my awareness of self-inflicted tragedy so profoundly.  

Let me hasten to say it is not a doom and gloom show. Far from it. Its wairua is spirited (if that’s not an oxymoron); the commentary on the human condition is delivered with a life-affirming joy that we are all alive to create it, to witness it and to get what a pack of fools we can be. The only slightly wonky thing is a character who lopes about like Quasimodo but has yet to find his place in the character spectrum – e.g. as the wise clown or ‘fool’ who sees what others don’t.

The blend of Maori and English language ensures Arohanui – The Greatest Love is accessible to all. If I was more conversant with te reo (a number of us commented afterwards how surprised we were at how much we readily understood), and had a greater understanding of the kapa haka and waiata, and their provenance, I would doubtless have enjoyed it even more.   

But such is the generosity of this performance mode that anyone who opens every sense and faculty to the experience cannot help but be entertained by it at many levels. From the moment ‘Tarakihi’ erupts from and upon the mobile geometric stepped set (designed by Apostolis Papazoglou), it’s clear we’re in for something extraordinary. A traditional action-chant (about a cicada crying in the middle of the night) made famous by Kiri Te Kanawa’s millennium selection), it gets a whole new life here.

The waiata are a blend of traditional and modern, with two created especially for this show (‘Parekoi te Tangata’ by Tapeta Wehi, andTe Tangi A Katipo’ by Annette Wehi). Every song – variously performed with poi, patu, mau rakau (directed by Tukiterangi and Renata Curtis) and taiaha – claims its place in the story, expressing a wide range of emotions, attitudes and states of being. The vocal and physical combinations are – I have to say – far more expressive of their emotional essence than their equivalents in opera or ballet.

Busby Pease-Otene’s sometimes thunderous sound design, Ana Hau’s superb costume designs and Martyn Roberts’ brilliant lighting design all add greatly to the overall spectacle and deep-felt impact of the unfolding story. (There is no credit for the body painting but I feel compelled to note that my first reaction to seeing the faerie people adorned with light blue and white designs was: they play for Argentina! Trite, I know, but the intensifying competition of the Rugby World Cup is putting us very much in touch with the emotional drivers that fuel Arohanui.)

Staged now as part of the RWC’s Real New Zealand Festival, it deserves to play to packed houses.

Beyond this season, if Arohanui – The Greatest Love gets a chance to tour (a big ask, given the size of the enterprise and the ‘real jobs’ so many of the company have), it has the capacity to ‘speak’ in its wonderfully unique way to anyone in the world about stuff that’s affecting us all. From Wall Street to the West Bank, it would be salutary. What would it take?  

Meanwhile if you’re in Wellington over the next few days, don’t miss it (click on the title above for times, etc.)   
_______________________________
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.

Comments

Raewyn Whyte October 7th, 2011

 Arohanui also runs in Auckland 13-21 October at the Dorothy Winstone Centre, Auckland Girls Grammar

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo