Lawson Field Theatre, Gisborne

09/10/2019 - 09/10/2019

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

World Premiere 

Henare is a story inspired by renowned Ngāti Porou composer Henare Waitoa. A new play created by his mokopuna, award winning playwright Hōhepa Waitoa and produced by Hone Kouka.

We are the voices of our people!

Henare is inspired by the experiences of Tio, labelled as “Urban Māori” but, unlike many others, he goes home to ‘Tiki’ and uncovers a whole lot more.

Told in the kitchen of a homestead in Tikitiki, Tio, a mokopuna of Henare, is returning to his father’s home fires. He is one of many who were born and raised away from Tikitiki but Tio has te reo and tikanga Māori. Although he never met his koroua, he often wondered what Henare was like and returns home to reignite the fire – but gets more than he bargains for.

Tio and his koroua, Henare, journey through different time periods – the 1930s, to the 1940s, to the present day. Contemporary and traditional pūoro bring you home to the Coast, opening a flood of memories.

Henare blends waiata and kōrero composed by Henare Waitoa and Hōhepa Waitoa. As a generation, we are on a mission to restore the house our tipuna erected by restoring the poutokomanawa of our Māoritanga – our language, our narrative, our people, our culture.

This is Henare.

05 Oct 2019, 7pm
06 Oct 2019, 1pm

Wednesday 9th Oct – 7:00pm
75 minutes
General Admission $25, Concession $20, Children $10.
Performed in Te Reo Māori.

Theatre , Te Reo Māori ,

Deeply appreciated and loved

Review by Nikau Hindin 15th Oct 2019

Henare celebrates the legacy of Henare Rangihuna Waitoa, a well-known composer from Ngāti Porou. Written by Henare’s mokopuna, Hōhepa Waitoa, performed by Hōhepa with his sister Sheree Waitoa, and produced by Hone Kouka, it opened over the weekend at Rahui Marae in Tikitiki, where the play is set, before this once-only performance at Tūranganui-a-kiwa’s Lawson Field Theatre. 

Henare Waitoa was famously asked by Āpirana Ngata to compose a waiata for the pōhiri of ‘C’ Company soldiers, 28th Māori Battalion, who were returning home to the East Coast after 6 years away at war. In a wistful memory told by Nanny Amiria, Hōhepa as Henare, greets Āpirana Ngata, as he trots up the drive. “Ahea te Pōwhiri? (And when is the Welcome?)”he asks… “Āpōpō!? (Tomorrow!?)”  

‘Tomo Mai e Tama Mā’, composed in a night and rehearsed only hours before it was performed on stage, is one of the many anthems still sung today.

The play begins with chanting whakapapa: fluid, like Hōhepa’s movements; unbroken, like the spoken word; ancient, like the flashing pounamu of his mere; grounding, like his wide haka stance.

After the seriousness of ritual, I enjoy the way Hōhepa and Sheree open up to the audience with wide smiles. Breaking the fourth wall (does it even exist when you are playing yourself?) they introduce themselves. It is a deeply authentic performance – standing barefoot, on a stage, with nothing but your own identity. But being Māori, they are not up there alone; they stand there with all their tīpuna around them as if they are supporting characters to draw on.

Sheree and Henare skip between generations playing either themselves or their grandparents. This is well done and I like Sheree as Nanny Amiria: her squinty eyes, subtle movements and sharp tongue.

Reo Māori lends itself to theatre because it inherently captures story in all its colour, smell, mood and movement. Through vivid language, we were trotting along bareback in the township, or rather Te Cītī ō Tikitiki – the bustling metropolis, prided for its hardworking farming people. There is a gas station, a shop, a post office, a pub and even a Farmers (department store). Pretty flash alright.

Sadly, this sunny East Coast scene dissipates with the urban drift. They question the imperative to send away our Māori men to war, to fight and die in foreign lands. They make us wonder what may have been, had they lived and carried on their whakapapa?

Henare’s waiata safe-keep knowledge, stories and glimpses of the past. This gift of composition has clearly been passed along, as Sheree and Hōhepa weave in their own songs to deal with modern day experiences. We are encouraged to stay true to our Māori ways, tikanga, reo, ideas and thoughts. To not only speak Māori but to think Māori. 

The play effortlessly normalises te reo Māori in theatre. The dialogue is so organic and laidback it doesn’t even feel like it is pre-rehearsed. It is a play unlike any I’ve ever seen because it breaks many of the usual theatre conventions. It is a record of time, a throw-back, but most importantly it is conversation. Have you ever been to a play where the audience gets up at the end and sings with the cast? 

I feel included in their story, more like whānau than an audience, and this is reinforced when everyone joins in to sing many of the waiata, bringing them to life once again. Hohepa draws on an important story from the East Coast that is deeply appreciated and loved by many who have whakapapa connections to waiata, the places, the time and, of course, the whānau.  


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