The Gym, The Arts Centre, Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch

05/06/2015 - 13/06/2015

Production Details

The unique bicultural opera Footrpints/Tapuwae, which juxtaposes motifs from Wagner’s Ring Cycle with waiata and haka, opens for a two-week season in The Gym from June 2nd. This performance is part of an event called Te Puna Toi, which fosters contemporary interdisciplinary performance. Free Theatre Christchurch are collaborating on the opera with performers from Te Pao a Tahu and Te Ahikōmau a Hamo Te Rangi, the Ngāi Tahu kapa haka groups who recently represented the Waitaha (greater Canterbury) region at Te Matatini. Footprints/Tapuwae is a reimagining and restaging of the opera that was first presented in 2001 in collaboration with Taiporouta Huata.

Te Puna Toi has programmed a series of public workshops and a symposium during the performance season of Footprints/Tapuwae, which explore the discoveries made by bringing together Maori and Western forms of performance. Te Puna Toi is supported by Christchurch City Council Events funding.

Reviewer’s comments from the popular and critically acclaimed 2001 production of Footprints/Tapuwae:

“immensely satisfying… the sheer nerve of the idea really impressed”- Alan Scott, The Press

“powerful and edgy, this creation gets you where you feel it” – Barry Grant, The Christchurch Star

The Gym, The Arts Centre, Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch  
Friday 5 – Saturday 6 June
Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 June 2015
Tickets: Waged $30. Unwaged $20. Online Bookings Essential

Theatre , Opera ,

A daring vision

Review by Lindsay Clark 06th Jun 2015

It is over a decade since the original staging of this extraordinary blending of Maori and European performance treasure. At that stage, the converted lecture theatre on the University of Canterbury’s former town site seemed scarcely able to contain the wealth of creative forces embodied in the piece. In the new premises, the scale and significance of its ideas are beautifully shaped. 

As part of Te Puna Toi, Free Theatre’s major event for this year, the prime focus is new performance experience made possible by the juxtaposition of diverse cultures. Here, an overarching quest for meaning and how to deal with want, desire and love, is traced on dual paths. The Pakeha one is built from fragments of Wagner’s great telling of The Ring myths, symbolic of greed and power and their inevitable consequences in the Twilight of the Gods.  

The selection is performed alternately with Maori myth, telling of Tūkaha who challenges the Taniwha and is destroyed by it before his daughter accepts the sacred role of avenger, using the potent patu pounamu. The twinned trails are strangely beautiful, reinforcing the universality of desire and struggle, though asking of the audience a total commitment and submersion in the mythical elements conjured by the drama. 

The first step comes, as with many Free Theatre ventures, in the establishment of the auditorium as a realm apart. We are conducted in small groups beyond the cheery Ubu theatre bar/entry, through a heavy curtain and into a darkly candle-lit world with a huge suspended pathway, curving around and down past chorus and musical instruments which will link and underscore events through sound. It seems to cover the whole auditorium as we are seated just to one side. 

Much of the performance will take place aloft but, initially at least, the Maori segments are compellingly enacted close up in the embellished floor space beside us. Set and lighting design from Stuart Lloyd-Harris establish a tone which locks us into the whole experience.

Then the sound begins, with unaccompanied and wordless voice from the dark, swelling to a full chorus with solo soprano, now proclaiming a “never ending peace that flows like a river”. There comes an answering waiata aroha to Tūkaha and short-lived tranquillity before the troubled journeys of both cultures.

Company skills are many and impressive, ranging from pure vocal work to impassioned haka, not to mention magic from synthesiser, guitar and piano. Physical control in using the extraordinary set seems effortless and the boundaries between this and conventional performance are crossed with complete assurance, a tribute to the commitment of all involved.

The opera is a daring vision of two cultures, two sets of footprints, inviting us to find commonalities and to relish distinctions. Bravo Free Theatre for taking us with you.


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