Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

03/07/2014 - 05/07/2014

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

09/07/2014 - 12/07/2014

Forum North, Whangarei

31/07/2014 - 02/08/2014

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

04/10/2014 - 18/10/2014

Production Details

Written by Tainui Tukiwaho
Directed by Gerald Urquhart

Te Rēhia Theatre

Hoki Mai Tama Mā: Groundbreaking Theatre Artform 

An innovative ‘Māori Mask’ art form, called “Mata Kōkako”, is set to be unveiled during Matariki with Te Rēhia Theatre’s original revolutionary production, Hoki Mai Tama Mā.

This new medium, which will be a first in theatre, explores the interface of Modern Māori Theatre, traditional mahi whakaari such as Kapa Haka and the historic art form of Commedia dell’Arte (Italian comedy).

The ethos of Hoki Mai Tama Mā is in keeping with new Māori theatre company Te Rēhia Theatre’s philosophy to create trailblazing and pioneering Māori storytelling in theatre.

Playwright Tainui Tukiwaho (Billy) says:  “ I chose to use WWII as the setting for Hoki Mai Tama Mā, as it’s the most famous meeting of the Māori and Italian worlds through the Māori Battalion.  It’s also been a great platform to explore and merge the Italian classic form of Commedia dell’Arte with Te Ao Māori (The Māori world).

Directed by Gerald Urquhart (Shortland St), Hoki mai Tama Mā moves between the day of the Matariki New Year celebrations in modern day rural Aotearoa and WWII Italy following Tama (Rawiri Jobe, Step Dave) who has just returned from Italy with his Koro/grandfather (Regan Taylor, Te Awarua).  Armed with Koro’s diary from the war and the earthy logic of their best friend and neighbour Nuku (Taylor), long held secrets are revealed and we learn the true meaning of forgiveness and whanau.

Other cast members include Amber Curreen (Shortland St, Korero mai) playing Bella/Morehu and Ascia Maybury who plays Patricia/Puhi (Step Dave, The Almighty Johnsons).

Company Director and actor Taylor, who came up with the concept of Mata Kōkako, says: “We’re really excited about discovering and refining this new theatre artform.  The majority of the mask-work including the way the masks look, feel and what they represent will evolve during the rehearsal process, hence why we are currently work-shopping with the blank moulds.”

Hoki Mai Tama Mā also marks Tukiwaho’s debut writing a full-length play.

Te Rēhia Theatre presents
Hoki Mai Tama Mā
Mangere Arts Centre, Bader Drive, Mangere,
3 – 5 July, 7.30 pm.

Te Rēhia Theatre presents
Hoki Mai Tama Mā
in association with AUCKLAND LIVE
at Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre,
9 – 12 July, 7.30 pm.
Tickets: Ticketmaster, ph 09 970 9700 or go to ticketmaster.co.nz

Te Rēhia Theatre in association with Whangarei Matariki Festival present
Hoki Mai Tama Mā
at Captaine Bougainville Theatre, Forum North, 7 Rust Ave, Whangarei,
31 July – 2 Aug, 7.30 pm
Tickets:  iTicket, ph 09 4304244 or go to iticket.co.nz
(Service Fees apply).


October brings a surprise addition to Centrepoint’s 2014 Season in the form of Hoki Mai Tama Mā, an hilarious, innovative and imaginative production from new theatre company Te Rēhia Theatre.

A late substitution for the previously advertised touring production BEEF (withdrawn when the Kila Kokonut Krew got an opportunity to tour to the Edinburgh Festival), Hoki Mai Tama Mā brings a familiar face back to Centrepoint Theatre. Regan Taylor, one of the founding members of Te Rēhia Theatre Company, hails from Dannevirke originally; and trained in performing arts at UCOL. It’s thanks, too, to Regan, that Hoki Mai Tama Mā can claim a unique place in theatre history. Regan mentioned to his friend, playwright and actor Tainui Tukiwaho, an idea that he had been musing on for some time: what if commedia dell’arte masks spoke Te Reo Maori?

In addition to Regan, the play features Amber Curreen (Shortland Street; Korero Mai); Ascia Maybury (The Almighty Johnsons; Step Dave) and playwright Tainui Tukiwaho (Billy; The Almighty Johnsons). Hoki Mai Tama Mā also marks the debut of Tukiwaho’s first full-length play.

The result – a collaboration with maskmaker Tristan Marler, with input from Indian Ink Company’s Justin Lewis, training the cast in mask performance basics – is a revolutionary production that essentially invents a new form of Maori theatre: Te Mata Kokako o Rehia, a blending of commedia dell’arte technique, modern theatre and traditional Maori performance. Maori culture doesn’t have masks, so this play truly is an imaginative and innovative blending of cultural and theatrical traditions.

This is the second production staged at Centrepoint Theatre this year (the centennial anniversary of the outbreak of World War I) that addresses the experiences of New Zealand men returning from war. Hoki Mai Tama Mā addresses themes of identity, culture and family with humour and heart.

It’s clear a great deal of time, mahi and aroha have been taken to produce an exceptional piece of work” – Nik Smythe, Theatreview

Hoki Mai wells up over its 90 minutes on a rising tide of charm, punctuated by some really funny sequences. Yep, it’s a very good night out.” – Simon Wilson, Metro Mag Online

Any reservations are swept away by the exuberant energy of the performances”. – Paul Simei-Barton, The NZ Herald

Hoki Mai Tama Mā
Centrepoint Theatre
4 October – 18 October.
Performances run Wednesday at 6:30pm; Thursday – Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 5pm.
Please note there is no Sunday performance on Sunday 5 October.
Special Performance:

$20 Tuesday: Tuesday 7 October, 6:30pm. All tickets for this performance $20. Bookings for this performance only open on Monday 6 October at 9am. Bookings through the box office at 280 Church Street or by phone 354 5740. Tickets are allocated on a first in first served basis and we regret we cannot accept email or answer-phone bookings for this performance. Limit 4 tickets per booking.
Prices: $38 Adults, $30 Seniors, $30 Under 30s, $28 Community Service Card Holders, $18 Students, $68 Dinner & Show.
Book now on 354 5740 or via the website www.centrepoint.co.nz.

Regan Taylor – Koro/Nuku
Amber Curreen – Bella/Morehu
Ascia Maybury – Patricia/Puhi
Rawiri Jobe – Tama 

Producers: Regan Taylor & Amber Curreen
Mask Design – Tristan Marler
Lighting Design – Calvin Hudson
Sound Design – Rory Drew
Operator – Patrick Minto
Set Design – Regan Taylor
Costume Design – Ascia Maybury
Production Manager – Boni Tukiwaho 
Stage Manager – Maia Ratana 
Publicist – Sharu Delilkan at Sharu Loves Hats

Theatre , Te Ao Māori , Kapa Haka theatre , Clown , Mask ,

Much to admire, more work to be done

Review by David Stevens 01st Aug 2014

The two great wars of the twentieth century are seminal, nation-defining events in the history of this country, because of the experience of the troops while they were away – and what happened when they came back. 

This schizophrenia – what they had seen there and what they had here – is neatly, if simplistically captured in the title of the old song, ‘How You Going to Keep ’Em Down on the Farm / After They’ve Seen Paree?’

Going away, in itself, was mind-blowing for those who had never left home, and coming back was, for many, worse, and this may be especially true for Maori, who had so little concept of ‘over there’ in their consciousness.

It was defined is Robin Hyde’s extraordinary, revelatory book Passport to Hell (1931), detailing the First World War experiences of Starkie – described by some as the quintessential NZ hero; dark-skinned, but not Maori – in the First World War. Perhaps the most disturbing image happens close to the end. On their return to NZ, on a troop ship, one soldier jumps overboard and deliberately drowns himself in sight of Wellington Harbour. His reasons are never explained, the death itself raises little comment and yet many of the returning men seem to share an understanding of why he did it. 

Perhaps Hyde’s book was, in itself, a red light to others. She went where few have dared to go and what she saw was bleak. Perhaps we don’t want to know about that New Zealand?

Otherwise, ‘the wars’ are a sort of hallowed ground, exemplified by Gallipoli and the Anzac legend. Young men (mostly) went away, experienced dreadful, life-changing events and then came back to take up where they had left off. There has been too little examination of the change that happened to those men, or of what, these days, would be called ‘post traumatic stress disorder’, at least of the WW1 generation, the seminal generation; nor the remarkable rise in the power, however tacit, of women. The temperance movement, for example, was not a result of the war but the six o’clock closing of the pubs (and the attendant six o’clock swill) was, an attempt to tame the beast in man, and it helped to define who we were. 

So when it becomes clear that these issues of returning soldiers are the core of HOKI MAI TAMA MA, my interest sparks markedly, and those aspects of the play (the present day aspects), with its complex concepts of identity, maintain my interest throughout. 

The question – who am I? – is visceral for all of us. The need to know who we are and where we are from is part of our grounding, our roots. I, on the other hand, was born in a country that no longer exists, and so I feel a constant sense of displacement – where do I belong? 

No such questions bother Bella, for my money the central character of the work. Bella is confident and secure in herself and in her bloodlines, her lineage, her genealogy her place: her whakapapa. Bella knows who she is and the shock to her (and to us) at the climax of the play is that she isn’t who she believes herself to be. 

Bella’s cousin, Tama, has returned from a surprising and unexpected visit to Italy looking for his Koro, his grandfather, and comes back with Koro’s diary, which, he says, will explain his absence.  So far, so fairly good, but now the play takes an unexpected and structurally difficult zag. 

Two masked Maori soldiers, warrior-like, appear, and in comic show Koro’s diary is bought to life, and the intent of the creative team becomes apparent. 

The combination of the forms of commedia dell’arte with the Maori language is provocative and tantalising – if no great leap. I vividly recall Richard Campion’s electric production of He Mana Toa, where moko did duty for the masks. I loved it and was surprised that it was effectively a one-off; that it did not become the basis of a thrilling stream of New Zealand theatre. 

So I don’t need any convincing about the concept of Maori masked theatre, it is not the form that concerns me with Hoki Mai Tama Ma, but rather the execution of it, because it seems divorced from the naturalistic, present-day play we have been watching. That first (mask) scene is a considerable zag, in style if not in content, and I might have been much more at ease if the connection to the present day play had been clearer – if Tama had started to read the diary aloud and the masked soldiers had assumed the action being described – something, anything, that would meld the two stories together much sooner than presently happens. 

The play progresses in this tandem form and there are several things to admire. Some things about identity are said which are important and are very seldom discussed, but while much of the masked show is mildly entertaining, at least until the climax it stays divorced from the present day story, which seems to be treading water. 

I begin to feel that the present day story is being made subordinate to the idea (the masks), rather than the idea illuminating the play (the identity issue). 

At the same time, I respect and admire the intelligence and imagination of the creative team, and especially the writer, Tainui Tukiwaho, and the four actors – Regan Taylor, Amber Curreen, Ascia Maybury and Rawin Jobe – because eventually the two strands do connect and coalesce and in a satisfying way.

The scene of the buckets is a lovely piece of theatre, some of the later mask work is yearningly beautiful and the introduction of the Italian elements (the Pulcinella /Punchinello mask) is a most welcome piece of the jig-saw. 

The climax – Bella’s discovery that she is not who she thinks she is – is extremely good, and I could have done with more of it, or at least, of its implications for Bella. How does she cope with the new and radical information about herself? 

So while there is much to admire, there is still more work to be done, because I think the priorities are skewed. If drama is forward action, then it is how Bella deals with the discovery about herself that is the well-spring of the play; the past is simply the back-story. In this version, it is almost the other way around.


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Cross-Commedia Clarity

Review by James Wenley 11th Jul 2014

The masks, masterfully crafted with aroha by maker Tristan Marler, are exquisite. The etched mokos glimmer with detail under the stage light. The performers tongue flicks out from under the half mask. It’s as if the ancestors, carved on the beams of the wharenui, have jumped off and sprung into fresh and blood life. It is these masks that make Hoki Mai Tama Mā special, a new artform the Te Rēhia Theatre Company call Te Mata Kōkako O Rēhia, blending Maori tikanga and the Italian art form of Commedia dell’Arte.

It’s remarkable that somebody hadn’t thought of this before. Indian Ink are the immediate touch point that in this country that have been experimenting and localising mask form, more recently embracing Balinese mask in Kiss the Fish (indeed, Justin Lewis assisted the company). Regan Taylor wondered what would happen if a Commedia mask spoke Te Reo, and the result is the new tangata whenua form from playwright Tainui Tukiwaho and Director Gerald Urquhart. [More]


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Kapa haka and Italian clowning a hard-case fusion

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 06th Jul 2014

The Pleiades constellation may be obscured in the drizzly haze of Auckland’s pre-dawn skies but contemporary Maori theatre is shining brightly as the Matariki Festival provides a showcase for a remarkable new work by playwright Tainui Tukiwaho. 

Te Rehia Theatre is a new company whose work is grounded in te reo Maori but employs an expansive, boldly experimental approach aimed at revitalising traditional forms. 

In Hoki Mai Tama Ma they have pulled off an extraordinary fusion that sees kapa haka combined with the Italian clowning tradition of commedia dell’arte and the hard-case humour of contemporary Maori story-telling. [More


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Today’s artists use old forms to forge a future tradition with an exceptional work

Review by Nik Smythe 04th Jul 2014

At the best of times it’s a challenge to accurately express the experience of a live theatre production in written words.  With its new original hybrid form of mask discipline created by the team who identify as Te whanau o Hoki Mai Tama Ma, to even adequately describe this work-in-progress feels more difficult than usual. 

Being told we are the first people in the world to witness Te Mata Kokako o Rehia certainly feels pretty special.  The creation of the masks, and this play, began when actor /producer Regan Taylor mentioned to his friend and colleague, writer /producer Tainui Tukiwaho, an idea he’d mused upon for some years: what if commedia dell’arte masks spoke Te Reo Maori? 

Employing the services of artist Tristan Marler to design the exquisite masks, and of mask performance veteran Justin Lewis to train the cast in the form basics, they assembled a company who have shared an eighteen-month journey to reach this world premiere evening.  There is a distinct sense that history is being made.

The play begins near the end of the story as Tama, a handsome young lad from an unspecified rural town played by Rawiri Jobe, returns from Italy where he followed his Koro, ‘Piri’, who inexplicably took off to Italy after the death of his beloved wife Puhi.  The ensuing play tracks Tama’s undertaking to work out why Piri absconded, by reading the worn old war journal that Koro says will explain his motivation. 

As he reads the entries, when he gets a chance in between family duties as they all prepare for their annual Matariki feast, the distinctive commedia-inspired characters emerge.  The elegantly carved half-masks with stylised moko speak in simplistic Reo and communicating as much if not more so in mime.  Tama’s Kuia Puhi’s mask is contrastingly full-faced, with a chin moko. 

During his tour of service, Piri meets and befriends another Maori by the name of Morehu before they are captured and impounded in a fascist POW camp.  The camp guards, distinguished by more authentic commedia dell’arte masks, are repeatedly lampooned by Piri and Morehu as they make various attempts to escape.  When one of their guards begins to become their friend, clues as to what Koro’s big secret might be begin to emerge. 

The cast bring their exquisite visages to life with skilled physical performances.  These in turn contrast with the natural performances of the ‘present-day’ young whanau. 

Director Gerald Urquhart successfully blends the distinct theatrical styles so that the transitions flow naturally in and out, aided greatly by Calvin Hudson’s evocative lighting design. Rory Drew’s sound design plays into the mix perfectly, effectively engaging our sense of mood and place with old war tunes, waiata and birdsong. 

Tama’s cousin and Koro’s favourite grandchild Bella (Amber Curreen) has many sides to her personality, at first mainly abrasive ones – stern, frank, sharp-tongued, no-bullshit.  All her warmth and understanding is apparently reserved for her beloved Koro, but that doesn’t stop their friend and neighbour Nuku from determinedly wooing her as he has been doing all these years.

Taylor’s Nuku is a hilarious clown savant; polite but cheeky, and impressively knowledgeable on any topic you name from animal behaviour to Elvis.  Further to this, he is multi-skilled in musical styles, farming and food preparation, among other things no doubt, and overall his shy, honest humour charms and exasperates everyone in spades.

As Tama’s new girlfriend Patricia, Ascia Maybury is the newcomer to the whanau.  Her red hair and blue eyes prompting suspicion from the staunch Bella, but she fairly soon proves to be a worthy match for all the talk and action taking place on this ceremonious day.

Despite being the Kaumatua of the household and the centre of the narrative, Koro (Taylor) is offstage for almost the whole play.  When he does emerge, his secret reveals itself to the more deductive audience members, just before it’s finally revealed to his family.

Some parts in the script and performance could use loosening up, as there’s an occasional tendency to sway from the usual natural, dynamic interplay to more didactic information sharing.  Meanwhile, during the Matarua scenes the clarity of what’s happening precisely has scope to be sharpened up in places, which ought only to intensify the enchantment of this fledgling artform. 

All told though, the heart of the story and its ultimate significance are very strong.  It’s clear a great deal of time, mahi and aroha have been taken to produce an exceptional piece of work – according to the players during their opening night mihi, they were still workshopping up to an hour before the doors opened.  

Not content with conceiving, developing, producing and performing, Taylor also designed the simple set.  The functional screens of corrugated iron, wood and woven grass mats, plus a few wooden crates, are equally redolent of wartime compounds and rural farmlands.  I am intrigued as to what the easy-to-miss woven fibre nests that hang overhead upstage are meant to symbolise until they light up – of course: Matariki!


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Subverts a lot of assumptions

Review by Simon Wilson 04th Jul 2014

I love it when I think I’m watching one kind of thing and it turns out to be another. Hoki Mai Tama Ma, a new play that opened last night in Mangere and will transfer next week to the Aotea Centre’s Herald Theatre, is a surprise package: theatrically inventive, and then, late in the piece, revealing itself as a complex, challenging and extremely rewarding statement of cultural identity. It’s got great thematic intent. As for the sheer entertainment quota, Hoki Mai wells up over its 90 minutes on a rising tide of charm, punctuated by some really funny sequences. Yep, it’s a very good night out. 

Tama (Rawiri Jobe) has just returned from a month in Italy, sent there by his koro, who was a POW during the war, on a secret mission. His cousin Bella (Amber Curreen) is angry, his Pakeha girlfriend Patricia (Ascia Maybury) is angry, his friend Nuku (Regan Taylor) doesn’t care… and Tama has his grandfather’s war diary, in which he will, the old man has said, discover a dark secret. [More


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