BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

16/09/2022 - 17/09/2022

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

21/06/2022 - 23/06/2022


Production Details

Written, directed and performed by Isaac Martyn
Produced by James Heath

Set designer/builder: Alex Martyn


When Isaac Martyn (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa) took MĀOR102 (Introduction to Māori Culture) in 2019, he was mainly taking it as a pākehā person who was “Respectfully learning about the indigenous culture”. Since then, it has been a long journey of self-discovery and learning about one’s true identity, despite its confusing and at times conflicting nature.

“This show is for somebody who is ever doubting if they are Māori enough, for rangatahi who are curious to know more about their whakapapa but don’t know where to start.” – Isaac Martyn 

Through waiata, past experiences, jokes and anecdotes, this whakaari moves through doubt and celebration of reclaiming Māoritanga later in life.

He Māori? is all about learning and connecting with your heritage with all of its far-reaching complexities; everyone will leave with a 10% off voucher at ancestry.com (budget pending). 

BATS Theatre, The Dome 
Tues 21 – Thurs 23 June 2022
The Difference:  $40
Full:  $18
Group 6+:  $15
Concession:  $14
Accessibility:  Make A Request

Tahi Festival 2022

“Isaac Martyn’s delivery and script feels honest, full of charisma and aroha… This is local theatre doing what it does best – challenging us while telling the stories of this land.”John Anderson, Theatreview, 2022 

BATS Theatre, The Dome
16 – 17 September 2022
$22 | $20 | $18

For full details about accessibility at BATS, Click here.

TAHI Festival
A celebration of solo artists, TAHI is a ten-day Festival from 8-17 September dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo performances from all around Aotearoa. With events across Pōneke in 2022, check out our website for all the details and to book.
www.tahifestival.com | @tahifestivalnz | #TAHI2022

TAHI Taster
Get more art for your buck with our TAHI Taster tickets! See any two TAHI Festival shows at BATS Theatre for just $30 – a saving of $10!

A small team coming from many different disciplines to create a fantastic show. This is our first production we will be running, so we want to come in (and go out) with a bang!

Producer: James Heath
Marketing and communications: Liv Payne 
Stage manager/wardrobe: Arvin Bahadornejad 

Solo , Theatre ,

45 mins

Vital storytelling

Review by Shauwn Keil 18th Sep 2022

It’s already half packed when we enter the Dome, my guest and I. All bearing witness to a lit up waka and a guitar that looks like it could be a paddle, or rather, hoe, and that’s it. There is a good buzz surrounding us. I can tell that a lot of people are excited to see ‘He Māori?’ tonight; myself included.

“What does it mean to reclaim Māoritanga from a Pākehā upbringing?”The hook line for this show in the Tahi Festival brochure.I very much have the same personal question. This might be the show that I most need to see in my life to date. I’ll be certain to find out by the end.

Though there is a wee delay in opening the show, we do get there, eased in by the performer/playwright (Isaac Martyn) joining the audience, mildly addressing his anxieties around being present at the Marae. I project imposter syndrome on the situation, and allow myself to take a step back, breathe and just let the performer do his thing.

Dressed in a blue singlet and shorts, Isaac sets himself up, centre stage, awkwardly and endearingly. Very quickly he treats us to that guitar, and he’s a natural. Not to dismiss the time and practice it takes to learn an instrument, I simply mean that he makes it look easy. “I don’t know. I don’t know” on repeat’ is what we hear for about a minute, before some more lyrics come in. I’m feeling some anxiety around the situation, in a way that I feel like I’m meant to. The discomfort we are met with on introduction is extended further in this song, so I sit with the belief that this is probably going to be a common trend throughout.

I admit that it’s hard to see anything through a different lens by now, given how much the topic resonates with me. But I try to remain objective about it. Following the song, Isaac delivers his pepeha, quite well I think despite the wavering confidence behind it. We learn that Isaac struggles with owning his identity, with words like “1/16th Māori” and “White Māori” present in his telling. A caricature performance displaying the identity clash elaborates on this battle, caricature being a recurring feature in this play, and something that Isaac excels at.

“You didn’t used to say Kia Ora.” Oh boy, I’ve heard words to that effect in my own life, sometimes in my own head too. I just know where we’re heading with this show, we’re entering self-judgement and questioning. I enjoy the white criticisms through song, that detail what are perceived to be acceptable accents to sing in, punctuated by the accents as they are described. While comedy and caricature allow these self-deprecating moments to translate with humour, I am ever thankful for Isaac including wee gags like drinking out of the Powerade bottle and quietly uttering “mauri ora” to defuse any tension that we may sit with.

Isaac’s own disappointment at not having learned much about Māori history growing up in the North Shore is clear as he ruminates on it. It clearly affected his own attitude in trying to learn more in his teenage years. I feel like I’m watching a brother from another mother tell our shared life from a different point of view. The imposter syndrome, the white guilt, the not knowing where to start.

Isaac is energetic and displays great performance technique throughout. His application of unique conventions to aid storytelling are magnificent. Sloppily changing gears while hopping between English and Māori in a car really sends it home; it can be a real mess, and a real conscious effort, but it keeps the engine from stalling and the car moving forward.

The skit with the app to gauge your competency in te reo has to be my biggest laugh. I find myself jealous hearing about Neapolitan skin: white, red when burnt, but “milk chocolate” afterwards. Some have it all. I get freckles. Lucky man.

If there’s anything I’d like more of in this show, it would be more vulnerability from the performer; just a little. The content is brave on its own, it is a must have, a must see, and there is already a great range of tactics to convey the feelings of not belonging. Worrying about being a clout chaser, referring to yourself as plastic, 1/16th – all of that through quirky character, clever concepts and waiata are honestly enough. I just know deep down that there’s one more tool that could help this land with anybody, and that is existing with us, authentically, among the running and hiding. But I get it, Isaac, I get it. Everything we see and hear is an extension of how the performer feels. That is the real journey, and that in and of itself, is true to the heart, and executed brilliantly.

By the end, the applause honours a great display of acting chops and musical comedy to reveal what’s on the performer’s mind. I leave satisfied with the show, and with questions for myself and my own journey.

The show has now concluded its season at BATS, though it would be a shame to think of this as the end. I would encourage as many return seasons of He Māori? as possible. It’s a vital show to see for anybody doubting their identity.

Isaac, I address this to you personally: You are killing it mate, you are doing more than enough, and you are an inspiration to me to forgive myself for what I haven’t learned and just try. Keep on going.

  • Copyright © belongs to the reviewer


Make a comment

A passionate and insightful cross-cultural view

Review by John Anderson 22nd Jun 2022

He Māori? is a thoughtful and funny play written, directed and acted by Isaac Martyn (Ngāti Tūwhargetoa, Te Arawa). It is about his experience learning te reo Māori and tikanga and the conflict he experiences as he learns the language of his ancestors.

Isaac Martyn’s delivery and script feels honest, full of charisma and aroha. His waiata and songs help drive and punctuate the story. I really enjoy how his guitar is not only an instrument of appreciation, but also of introspection and at times fierce frustration.

The lighting and staging (Alex Martyn) of a lone waka wrapped in plastic simply and effectively underlines the core contradiction explored so well by the piece.

This is not a TED Talk with all the answers. Martyn asks complex questions of himself and ourselves. A hopeful uncertainty remains at the heart of the show.

‘He Māori?’ is one person’s passionate and insightful cross-cultural view. For me, this is local theatre doing what it does best – challenging us while telling the stories of this land.

He Māori Productions are Isaac Martyn, James Heath (Producer), Alex Martyn (Set designer/builder), Liv Payne (Marketing and communications), Arvin Bahadornejad (Stage manager/wardrobe). Hāmi Hawkins is the technical operator.

  • Copyright © belongs to the reviewer


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council