Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love

Te Whaea - Basement Theatre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

20/02/2024 - 24/02/2024

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

28/02/2024 - 02/03/2024

Air Force Museum, Wigram, Christchurch

07/03/2024 - 10/03/2024

Energy Events Centre Rotorua, Queens Drive, Rotorua

14/03/2024 - 17/03/2024

Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2024

Production Details


Artistic Director - Tānemahuta Gray
Kapa Haka lyrics and choreography - Wētini Mītai-Ngātai

Taki Rua Productions


NEXT-LEVEL IMMERSIVE THEATRE PERFORMANCE BASED ON MĀORI LEGEND TO TOUR AOTEAROA IN 2024

Boundary-pushing kaupapa Māori theatre company Taki Rua Productions will tour its captivating new, large-scale aerial dance theatre work, Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love, across the motu in February and March 2024. Based on the Te Arawa iwi kōrero (legend) of Hatupatu and Kurungaituku, or Hatupatu and the Bird Woman, this is a thrilling immersive experience which evokes the towering bird realm, forests, and geo-thermal forces of Rotorua.

The FNZ season of Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love premieres as part of the 2024 Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts in February before touring to Tamaki Makaurau and Ōtautahi, and then ultimately closing in the home of the eminent iwi kōrero, Rotorua.

It is a story of survival and love between the young Te Arawa warrior Hatupatu and the other-worldly bird woman, Kurungaituku. Combining breathtaking aerial work by award-winning artistic director and aerialist Tānemahuta Gray (Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne, Waikato (whāngai)) and kapa haka developed in collaboration with Wētini Mītai-Ngātai (Te Arawa, Ngāti Pikiao), leader of two-time Te Matatini-winning kapa haka rōpū Te Mātārae I Ōrehu, this is next-level contemporary Māori performance.

Inspired by his experience with world-leading aerial theatre company De La Guarda, Gray has recreated an immersive world for the omnipresent Kurungaituku. The story follows the journey of young warrior Hatupatu as the mythological part-woman, part-bird – the guardian of the forest – ensnares him in her cave. An extraordinary story of love, betrayal, and sacrifice follows as Hatupatu struggles to fulfil his destiny.

Tānemahuta Gray (Māui – One Man Against The Gods, Tiki Taane Mahuta), also Taki Rua Productions’ Chief Executive, says, “This unique experience elevates, quite literally, a beautiful Māori story which so many in Aotearoa have read from a young age and inserts the audience right inside it. The forests, geysers, and the bird realm are visceral for the audience – the story unfolds above and around them. It is an experience we hope sheds new light on this legendary love story and secures its place in the hearts and minds of New Zealanders long into the future.”

Season dates

Te Whanganui-a-Tara | Wellington
Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts
Tuesday 20 to Saturday 24 February
Tāwhiri Warehouse: 11 Hutchinson Street, Newtown, Wellington
Tickets: www.iticket.co.nz

Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland:
Wednesday 28 Feb to Saturday 2 March
Q Theatre: Rangatira Venue: 305 Queens Street, Auckland
Tickets: www.qtheatre.co.nz/shows

Ōtautahi | Christchurch:
Thursday 7 to Sunday 10 March
Wigram Aiforce Museum: Therese-Angelo Venue: 45 Harvard Avenue, Wigram, Christchurch
Tickets: https://premier.ticketek.co.nz/

Rotorua:
Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 March
Energy Events Centre Rotorua: Queens Drive, Rotorua
Tickets: https://www.ticketmaster.co.nz/

Currently celebrating its 40th year, Taki Rua Productions is one of the longest running kaupapa Māori theatre companies in Aotearoa, producing and developing theatre works through a distinctively Māori lens and contributing to the narrative of theatre and te whare tapere. Previous productions include Tiki Taane Mahuta, Michael James Manaia and Strange Resting Places.

The FNZ season of Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love is a Taki Rua production presented in association with Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, with support from naming rights sponsor FNZ, and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Creative New Zealand, and Wellington City Council.


Cast
Hatupatu - Eds Eramiha
Kurungaituku - Kasina Campbell
Hānui - Manuel Solomon
Hāroa - Sharn Te Pou
Karika - Wahia Te Pōuri
Tamumu Ki Te Rangi - Kia Jewell

Creatives
Set Design - John Verryt
Costume Designer - Elizabeth Whiting
Sound Design - Paddy Free
Lighting Design - Jo Kilgour
AV Design - Delainy Kennedy and Rachel Neser (Artificial Imagination)


Cirque-aerial-theatre , Dance , Maori contemporary dance , Te Ao Māori ,


1hr20mins

Ngā Pūrākau (myths) are driving forces

Review by Te Ao Tahana-Prangnell  17th Mar 2024

Nā Jaila Te Ao Tahana-Prangnell 
(Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Kahungunu)

All in all, what a wonderful experience 

Te Arawa e! E!
Te Arawa e! E!
Ko te whakaariki, ko te whakaariki
Tukua mai ki a piri
Tukua mai ki a tata
Kia eke mai i runga ki te paepae poto a Houmaitawhiti!

Ngā Pūrākau (myths) are driving forces, passing down the stories and knowledge from one generation to another to keep culture alive. In the heart of Ngā pūmanawa e waru o Te Arawa is one such story that every child in Rotorua knows of: the legend of Hatupatu and Kurungaituku, the Bird woman. (Note the reviewer spells Kurangaituku as the spelling of Te Arawa)

When you think of this particular story, the imagery of Kurungaituku comes to mind as a grotesque supernatural being who found and nurtured Hatupatu back to life after his brothers Hānui, Hāroa and Karika left him for dead during a hunting expedition.

Tane Mahuta Gray (Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne, Tainui), CEO & Artistic Director of Takirua productions, sought permission from Ngāti Wāhiao ki Whakarewarewa, Ngā koeke o Te Arawa and Ngā koeke o Ngāti Pikiao. When it comes to transforming a pūrākau to stage, this is a huge undertaking. Māori people very rarely allow others to take their stories without having a robust conversation on how ngā pūrākau will be presented. 

I can imagine that Gray would have been put through his paces to gain approval from the Te Arawa elders to create this production. But it must have been enough to have Uncle Wēteni Mītai-Ngatai (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Pikiao) be brought onto this project as the Maitangi Matauranga Māori Kapa Haka Choreographer & Composition. When Mītai-Ngatai enters a room, the ihi, wehi and wana he holds fills the smallest voids in the space; you cannot help but be drawn by his very presence. A humble man who has given so much to his people of Te Arawa, what a more fitting way to ensure that the cast learn the Te Arawa technique of Tīkanga (customs/practices), Kapa Haka and weaponry. 

The Rotorua Energy Events Centre foyer is already filled with many audience members awaiting to go into the space where Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love will be performed. Takirua has acquired an enormous space and I wonder how they could possibly convert it. As you walk through the giant kowhaiwhai patterned doors, you are ushered into two different entry points. Haere au ki maui ki matau ranei? (Do I go left or right?) 

I head to my right and pass through black curtains into an unexpected space created by Set Designer John Verryt. I am surrounded by scaffolding with a letter T shaped stage in the middle of the room, rigging on the bottom end and a huge screen at the top end created by Rigging Designer Sam Johnston. It is a sight to behold. 

There are platforms above and seating below, and in between the sides of the stage and the seating area, there is a standing space. The Lighting Design by Jo Kilgour is dark and low lit with natural sounds of birds surrounding us (Sound Designer Paddy Free) setting the scene that we are now in the ngāhere (forest), even though we are surrounded by metal, the atmosphere feels natural. I have decided to stand near the closer side of the seating because I want to be able to see as much of the action as I can. The stage is quite high and I am reminded of the Shakespeare Pop-Up Globe Theatre that once stood at Ellerslie Racecourse. 

The lights go down as a silhouette of a man stands in front of the screen. The AV Design by Delainy Kennedy and Rachel Neser is sustenance for the eyes as we are drawn to the moving patterns that are vivid and satisfying. The light reveals a handsome figure in a tormented sleep. He awakes suddenly as smoke bursts out, up and around him. Unanticipated is Eds Eramiha’s beautiful singing voice as he laments for a loved one lost. No one can deny that Eramiha is great eye candy to the women in the audience tonight. 

As the lights fade from him, we are drawn to the bottom of the T to see a trap door open and a figure covered in a very large semi structured material that looks like speckled ivory imitating an egg. As the egg rises into the air, you can see a figure moving inside and a hand pushes through the material. All of sudden she is finally revealed: Kurungaituku (Kurangaituku)! Her arms stretched out and her legs bent, Kasina Campbell is focussed as every movement that she makes is purposeful, from the tip of her fingers to her toes. Her head flicks from one side to the other as she looks over the audience and her home. 

She is greeted by more birds that stand over the platforms; one of those birds is directly above my head. Since I was a child, I have always had an idea of Kurungaituku but I never thought about its origins. What a great way to introduce the Bird Woman. Her piercing karanga manu (bird call) cuts through as her birds respond in turn. 

I am a little underwhelmed with Campbell’s costume and cannot help but be distracted by the harness. Unfortunately it does take away some of the magic, this is something that I imagine cannot be helped due to the nature of aerial dancing: safety first. But it does set limitations on what you can and cannot do as an Artistic Director. 

The Bird Woman returns back where she came from and the stage lights up as a younger Hatupatu runs on stage carrying a piece of wood and a short stick. Eramiha’s performance of young Hatupatu is charming as he struggles to light the fire. 

His older brothers – Hānui played by Manuel Solomon (Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Hāmoa), Hāroa played by Sherrick Martin (Te Arawa, Tūhoe, Te Whakactōhea, Ngāti Maniapoto) and Karika played by Wāhia Te Pōuri Felise (Nukunoa, Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Ruahine) – storm in while practicing their mau rakau skills as their teina (younger brother) looks on in awe. The three brothers are impressive as they drill. They move into combos; the speed and agility kicks in as they stay in sync the entire time. The audience gasps and breaks into applause to show their appreciation. The brothers’ scene is entertaining and well cast. 

I especially love listening to the reo Māori being spoken. For non-speaking Māori audience members, they are able to pick up the gist of the conversations through the actions and interactions of the brothers. The night scene has us laughing as we watch the three older brothers sleeping together while Hatupatu is made to sleep away from them. 

Kurungaituku is curious as she inspects the sleeping Hatupatu by hovering over him. She takes a taste of his blood and decides to take his kākahu (cloak). I am captivated by the moment when she is trying to wake him up by making soft bird sounds. Campbell’s movement is fluid and graceful as she turns away from him when he stirs. The strength it takes to remember that every part of her body must mimic a bird is a testament to her hard work to embody Kurungaituku (Kurangaituku). I am seeing her more as a woman than a bird and that is thought-provoking.

We are granted a peek as the brothers, with their rakau, walk through the audience members in the standing area. I am partial to productions that interact with the audience, it draws us in and makes us feel like a part of the story. We are treated to a technology smorgasbord when the brothers are hunting for kereru, utilising the sound and the screen of the forest to show us how birds were killed. The preparation of the birds’ sequence is interesting as motifs and repetition make us feel that a lot of birds are caught.

We come to the dreaded scene of death as Hatupatu is revealed to have eaten all the kereru and lied to his brothers. There is a sense of endearment as Hāroa and Karika try to stop Hānui from killing their little brother but are too late. This is a testament to these actors working really well together. It is a powerful scene that makes the audience look on in silence as the brothers cover Hatupatu and leave him. 

Tamumu-ki-te-Rangi (He-that-buzzes-in-the-skies) is a solo dancer who moves fluidly in space. The costume design by Amy Macaskill and Elizabeth Whiting is dazzling with the head pieces for the blowflies but also the birds. As the other blowflies move upstage toward Tamumu-ki-te-rangi, we are treated to a beautiful aerial dance above the body of Hatupatu. The ensemble dancers begin a haka fusion with other elements of dance that work so nicely together. I especially love the strong shapes, the levels, the footwork and the accumulation of the movement as Hatupatu is revived back to life as Tamumu-ki-te-Rangi takes his place in death. 

The chemistry between Eramiha and Campbell is powerful as Kaurungaituku traps Hatupatu. A beautiful black cage is revealed from below the stage and is used so cleverly to establish, in a short time, the relationship between the two characters.

I go into this with an open mind and try not to allow my eight year-old self to look on in confusion, seeing love between two characters that I have grown up knowing they are not love interests. Stockholm syndrome perhaps? The love story angle works for me, the two lead characters are fascinating. It does answer some questions; I always thought Kurungaituku was hard done by in this story. Why would she rescue Hatupatu and take him back to her home only to have her pets killed by him? If anything, my tupuna Hatupatu is the baddie here. 

The next scene is powerful when Hatupatu wants to take Kurungaituku home to meet his parents. She immediately turns from being affectionate to controlling. This triggers Hatupatu, as he is forced onto his knees to appease his love. What a clever directing choice to have the audience see in real time what a toxic relationship can look like. Campbell’s strong portrayal of Kurungaituku gives Eramiha what he needs to take Hatupatu into a dark place as he knowingly destroys his love’s birds in a fit of rage. Kurungaituku arrives to find her birds dead, she laments as they rise and walk to the end of the stage. 

A special mention to the ensemble cast Kia Jewell (Indian, Angolian, English, Welsh), Cameron Holland (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Hinemutu, Ngāti Whātua, Cook Island, Ireland), Cuba Haslam (Ngāi Te Rangi) and Amanda Noblett (Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Pākeha). They have done a wonderful job supporting the story and the leads. 

Watching the last bird fall away, Campbell’s rage is fixed as Kurungaituku breaks into a haka. She expresses her rage and pain as she storms off the stage. Hatupatu hides in the audience as she crouches high on her perch while her birds are searching for him. 

This is where I feel the story begins to unravel. The running scene using the AV screen doesn’t work for me because the audience laughs. After seeing two powerful scenes in a row, I want to stay in that place of hurt and pain. It would have been better had the lighting been involved to create the illusion of running. Kurungaituku on the aerial is slow and awkward as she finally makes her way to the rock that looks like a triangle, then slowly returns back to the perch? I wonder if Gray thought about using the black cage instead? covered in a light grey cloth with lighting inside to see the shadow of Hatupatu waiting inside. Again, it’s the limitations of clips and safety. 

Personally I would have loved to have seen a duet piece, similar to when they were courting, as the chasing scene. 

The leads manage to bring us back when Kurungaituku goes to do the kill strike only to be calmed by Hatupatu’s voice. As reconciliation is near, the geyser unexpectedly blows and Kurungaituku, as a last act of love, covers Hatupatu. She is blown up into the steaming hot water that ultimately kills her. Her screams of pain and crying stills us. We feel her pain, we mourn his loss.

It is gratifying to see Hatupatu return back to Te Motutapu a Tinirau (Mokoia Island) and challenge his brothers. It is an unusual directing choice to have the brothers harnessed and standing from the screen. The slow-motion movement doesn’t work unless the lighting changes, and it is unnecessary. It would have been a visual treat to see Te Arawa sparring in action, the actors are clearly capable and the space is there. 

Eramiha leads the cast to the end with mana and pride. Hats off to the Creative Team, Climbers and Crew who work behind the scenes to ensure that the production runs smoothly. All in all, what a wonderful experience. It is a privilege to see our Māori stories being brought to life, even ones that have been altered. What a fantastic cast! Bringing this story back to Rotorua is a fitting way to end a successful tour and pay tribute to the story that originates here.  

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A Te Ao Māori lens

Review by Chas Mamea 07th Mar 2024

Hatupatu | Kurungaituku : A Forbidden Love, artistically is envisioned by Tānemahuta Gray under Taki Rua Productions and is performed by a talented mixed cast of kaihaka, contemporary and commercial/street dance performers, seasoned theatre artists and creatives alike. This show is a seamless integration of artforms: haka-theatre, aerial work, waiata, dance movement and most importantly, the full script being performed in Te Reo Māori — a true reflection of the arts as a hereditary means of storytelling/passing of knowledge/recalling of our ancestry as Indigenous Māori. Q Theatre transforms into a thoughtfully curated space becoming almost unrecognisable. I find myself standing around a stage which splays itself out in the centre of the theatre, laced with images of native leaves and accompanied by gentle bird sounds to greet us.

A creatively immersive, surround-sound experience that shifts us into the forests and landscapes of Hatupatu’s beloved Rotorua, generating audience members to chatter in excitement. Hatupatu, portrayed by Eds Eramiha, pierces the darkness with a call to his ancestors. His presence is mana-filled and powerful, which is sustained throughout the show right up until the final scene. His seamless shifting through the different artforms of haka, song, humorous acting are a reflection of his well-versed commitment to the crafts and must be commended for his performance in this work.


Accompanied by his brothers, Manuel Solomon as Hānui, Sherrick Martin as Hāroa and Wāhia Te Pouri as Karika, the chemistry off stage transitions to the on stage world. The dynamic relationship of brotherhood through cheeky games, mocking, laughter and providing for their families/village was prominent throughout the scenes they were in. I thoroughly enjoyed the synergy of the four brothers, and to embody such characters – how might our ancestors have behaved? What would that relationship look like? How would they hold themselves? It is as if we were transported back in the rā, and we were a part of their world watching the village antics unfold before us. Their performance must also be commended for this show, as they played a major part in making the audience feel part of the work.


The mana wāhine that is Kasina Campbell brings her extensive performance background to the forefront, embodying Kurungaituku (guardian of the forest, bird woman, spirit lady). Gracefully spinning, twisting and gliding through the air – something that requires skill, technique and what I assume would be, alot of core work to master — she executes so effortlessly. The evolving charismatic duet of Campbell and Eramiha personifies both grace and strength, where motifs of manu are threaded throughout; the movement whakapapa of both artists become prominently intertwined, complimenting each other well in this section.

The production and staging surprise me throughout the show time and time again, from

Kurungaituku being birthed from the whenua and unveiled in mid-air, to the humorous lighting of the ‘fire’ done by older brothers to tease Hatupatu’s incompetence. A memorably impressive moment was the reveal of the cage in which Kurungaituku traps Hatupatu, and seduces him with her moving aerial skills – an exceedingly large prop that somehow materialises into existence as part of the narrative. The stage was constantly shifting, moving, changing, morphing as the story unfolded. A uniquely curated show which gracefully considers and weaves together all aspects of production, theatrics, character development and beyond.

Overall, the world building of the star-team of performers, production, artistic director/s and
mentors has created a family-friendly, atmospheric show and most importantly, through a Te Ao Māori lens. How Indigenous stories are being re-imagined in modern-day artistic practices and technology allows us to experience these beloved stories like never before.

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Giving a voice to our ancestors while bringing language and kaupapa into the present

Review by Tainui Tukiwaho 01st Mar 2024

MIHI

Ko io te timatanga,
tuarua ko te ao,
tua toru he tangata ki nga korero,
i ahu mai a Te Arawa,
mai hawaiki nui,
mai hawaiki roa,
hawaiki pamamao ki te mutunga,
ka hoki ano, ki te hononga wairua, i a kupe nga waka e,
ono te heke nga nui e whitu e,
mai Maketu ki Tongariro maunga,
Maketu te ihu,
Rotorua te takere,
Taupo te kei o te waka e,
ko Uenukukopako, Pikiao, Tuhourangi, Ngati Tahu, Ngati Whaoa, ko tahi tatau e

Tangi taukiri ai nga mihi ki a koutou
mo te reo i karangaranga
mo te reo ariki
mo te reo tipuna
mo te kaupapa rangatira
I takoha mai e koutou te whanau o Takirua

Ahakoa taku ingoa, kei konei te tahi o nga mokopuna o ngā pūmanwa e waru o Te Arawa.
I tu manawa reka au e matakitaki I a koutou e whakatu ana te tahi o nga purakau mai toku taiohitanga.
E au e mataaki I a koutou me o koutou taiaha I hoki taku mahara ki te koraua a Mita Mohi, me tana pukenga, me tana mahi whakamana i te haopri.
I rērere ana katoa te ngakau. 

Tenei au, ko Tainui Tukiwaho e mihi ana ki a koutou.

This is my first voyage into theatre reviewing and because I am a coward I have decided to make this journey with my wahine Maria-Del, and on occasion my eleven-year-old son Popai will weigh in on reviews. This is one of those times. I feel equal parts lucky and privileged that Hatupatu, Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love is my first. 

Maria-Del and I are chalk and cheese so you will be receiving a somewhat polarized review. I have dedicated my adult life to the performing arts, while Maria-Del is a sport enthusiast who has an honest (less pretentious) point of view about the arts than mine.

Our experience when arriving is a familiar one. Q Theatre is littered with moko kauae, kaumatua, even a few Tamariki here and there.

When we booked our seats we were offered two options, sitting or standing. Because I am inherently lazy, I proudly snaffled up three seats, assuming standing was for suckers.

When we arrived, I immediately regretted my decision, and we hustled our way down to the standing space. Maria did point out, due to the staging of the show, there were only really 2 rows of seating with a good vantage point.

The set is a high catwalk. Standing at around 5’8 at one end is a large screen and the other end is a perch. While behind us and across from us are large scaffolds that the cast sometimes occupy.

From our standing position we are in the thick of the action and it’s exciting – cast members move through the crowd in moments when Kurungaituku (Kasina Campbell) is flying. She is majestic and powerful, and Hatupatu (Eds Eramiha) takes full advantage of our proximity working hard to endear us to his cause (spoiler alert, he succeeded). There are no regrets from us for having moved downstairs. 

The stunned looks on my sons face as the performers have us on awe of their skill, confidence and expertise is the best complement this show could receive.

At some points I found the staging a little difficult in terms of focus of performance. I was often concerned that I was missing out on something cool on the other end of the catwalk style stage or in the gods, so I found myself quickly whipping around trying to satisfy my FOMO.

A quick survey of the audience lets me know I am in a very exclusive waka with my concern of staging (Maria-Del told me as much on the drive home); The room is full of smiles and positive energy for this stunning expression of Haka Theatre elevated with aerials.

All the performers do some of their best work I’ve seen them do. It’s definitely a festival piece, a mean Māori experience. I can see the influence of Regan Taylor on the piece, with his trademark joy and play. And the mau rakau. Aue! Koutou ma katahi te awesome ko you fellas!

Some aspects of the show that warrant discussion after consideration, are the story telling and the staging.

Being a child of Te Arawa, growing up in Rotorua, Hatupatu is a story that I was raised on. There are many variations of the story – as you may consider stories by Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm. Hatupatu has a child’s version and there is also a very dark dangerous version, the story that we received was a happy medium.

I would have enjoyed more time for character and relationship development through the narrative. I also felt that the antagonist was underutilized, the narrative could have benefitted from Kurungaituku being more present in the story.

As much as I ‘capital L’, loved the design aspects of this show, I found myself wondering if it was too busy; It takes me back to my statement earlier about feeling like I was missing out on aspects. At one point there were birds above us, a main character on the dais before us, images on the screen at one end of the room and characters moving through the crowd and I was not sure where to look.

There were a lot of amazing and exciting elements to the show, but I feel a stronger story would have locked us into moments more than the design. Of course, when I mentioned my concerns to Maria-Del she had the opposite opinion. Everything that I mentioned as potential narrative issues or distractions, she would call dynamic and exciting. Cherishing the opportunity to have so many options available to her, giving her the power to pick and choose where to place her attention at will.  

All the designer’s work stood out in this production. Sound played a big part in this show. It was exciting and engaging thanks to Paddy Free, although the transitions were abrupt at times, but I really must take my hat off to John Verryt for his set design, it was playful, practical, and simple, all the best things a set should be, but it also had a little magic in it that pulled my inner child out evidenced by the similarity of the looks my 11-year-old and I had on our faces when the magic was woven.

The actor Kaupapa is always an easy discussion because the actors are all so present. We both agreed that Eds did a wonderful job playing Hatupatu, he allowed his ‘Mauitanga’ to lead, and it was a pleasure to watch.

For Maria-Del, though, she just couldn’t take her eye off Kasina Campbell as Kurungaituku. Her sharp, elegant, and beautifully timed movements made her presence on stage captivating, Maria-Del found herself watching her even when maybe she shouldn’t have. 

For me, if I had to choose a standout performance for this show, my vote goes to Manuel Solomon who plays Hānui, the oldest brother of Hatupatu. An obvious villain of the piece who managed to squeeze some sympathy out of me in his brief moment of regret after a heinous action.

My final thoughts for this show lie with the director/ creator Tānemahuta Gray. I feel fortunate to be living in a time where theatre created from a Māori lens exists in so many varied and exciting forms.

This show is part of a legacy of works that gives voice to our ancestors while bringing our language and Kaupapa into the present. The show excited and surprised this jaded old theatre maker. It awed my eleven-year-old son (who has seen more shows than many of you reading) and it wowed my wahine to point that she even reckons she will come to the next show with me (thanks for that team)
I am so incredibly proud to be in an industry with visionaries such as Tānemahuta.

Congratulations e te tuakana.

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Courageous and innovative 

Review by Jennifer Shennan 23rd Feb 2024

It’s always a special moment for an audience when the poster image for a production is revealed in the course of play—only fleetingly, there it was, but we recognise it instantly since we have been looking forward to this show for some time and wondering how the combination of its many threads might weave together. And what an image it is, also on the program cover—a Maori man, Hatupatu, wearing a fine piupiu (woven fibre skirt), stands looking at us, his left fist strongly clenched, his right arm lifted to embrace the Maori bird-woman, Kurungaituku, who is suspended upside-down beside him, their cheeks adjacent, faces wreathed in red feathers and foliage, her bird body marked with feather shapes. It speaks of love and tragedy, of what is possible and what’s not, a man and a woman together but who can never be united, and one of them will die. The cryptic mystery of the legend of Hatupatu and the Bird-Woman is told in dialogue, all of it in te reo (Maori language), four males, gun performers of haka and taiaha. Female aerial artists are the birds, their urgent calls screeching out as they soar and sway overhead.

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Love that flies.

Review by Lyne Pringle 22nd Feb 2024

Sacred myths are vehicles for expression. A way to integrate worlds.

Tanemahuta Gray’s production for Taki Rua, Hatupatu/Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love, brings together the realms of aerial performance, traditional kapa haka and modern dance. They fuse into an uneven whole with tension between the ancient and the modern.

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It is a gift for us all

Review by Deborah Pope 21st Feb 2024

Hatupatu/Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love is a large scale contemporary Māori work, an interpretation of a Māori legend which has resonance for us all,  removed as we are from our connection to the natural world.

Hatupatu  is killed by his brothers for his greed and brought back to life and imprisoned in the cave of Kurungaitaku, a part woman/ part bird, a powerful tūpuna in many tribal narratives. A relationship develops during his incarceration, but Hatupatu must return to his world and to do this he desecrates her cave, killing many of her birds and escapes into the forest. Pursued by Kurungaituku and her birds through forest and  geothermal land, Kurungaituku saves him from death by sacrificing her own life. Hatupatu returns to his iwi a changed man and carries the sacrifice, the aroha and the mana of Kurungaituku through his subsequent life as a leader.

This immersive production is transverse with a large runway stage at head height for the mostly standing audience. This creates the illusion of looking up into the forest and as the performers move through the audience, of creatures rustling on a thick forest floor. With the haunting sounds of taonga pūoro and  creatures flying above our heads , Hatupatu is an exciting, haunting and evocative performance.

The narrative is carried simply with seven performers, a wonderful soundscape, gorgeous projections which reinforce the atmosphere and the brilliance and breadth of the physical vocabulary which includes kapa haka contemporary dance, waiata, korero and aerial work. This creates a performance with many layers and meaning and all  add to the magic of this show.

The simplicity and authenticity of the brothers playing traditional games and teasing each other, the beauty and precision of the taiaha and the magic created by the aerial images create layers of images which carry the narrative for all non Te Reo speakers.

 The story is held by the multi skilled cast. Their relationship to each other and to the story is clear. They are wonderfully supported by a technical crew who give the performers wings to fly.

Hatupatu/Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love tells of greed and anger and violence and the healing power and mana of Kurungaituku. It carries a powerful message of our need to take lessons from our land and its mana.

Congratulations to Taki Rua, Aotearoa New Zealand Arts Festival and Tanemahuta Grey. The opportunity to see a large-scale Māori work is rare and authentic and this piece builds on the work of Tanemahuta Grey and Māui, One Man against the Gods, last previewed nineteen years ago.

I can highly recommend this experience for all, the young child next to me was entranced, the audience was held by the performance and there was a great sense of aroha at the end. It is a gift for us all.

[Click on ‘Production Details’ above to find the credits.]

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