Hui (Pronounced ‘Who-ee’)
29/06/2022 - 01/07/2022
DEVISED AND PERFORMED BY
Hinerangimarie Berryman with Benny Marama
LIGHTING DESIGN AND SOUND
“Oh. And it’s pronounced ‘who-ee’.”
What does it mean to be misunderstood by a world that refuses to understand you?
Two strangers meet each other in a room waiting for different reasons.
Sharing stories about themselves, they find that they are connected to each other in more ways than one. And they’re fighting a system that’s forcing them into categories they’re unsure they belong in.
Devised and performed by Hinerangimarie Berryman (Waikato Tainui and Tuwharetoa) and Benny Marama (Kūki ‘Āirani), Hui (Pronounced ‘Who-ee’) is an exploration of identity told through music and theatre. Funny, heart-breaking, and unapologetically brown, the show explores the collision between different cultures and the common ground that can be found between both.
Hui (Pronounced ‘Who-ee’) is supported by The Meteor’s Boil Up Creative Development programme.
Short play tackling big issues
Review by D.A. Taylor 01st Jul 2022
Devised and performed by Hinerangimarie Berryman (Waikato Tainui and Tuwharetoa) and Benny Marama (Kūki ‘Āirani), Hui (Pronounced ‘Who-ee’) is the latest offering supported by The Meteor’s Boil Up Creative Development programme.
By way of premise, Berryman and Marama’s unnamed characters are asked to attend a hui (the ‘Who-ee’ of the title) – something that their separate phone calls indicate is cultural lip service by the unseen hosts of the hui. Here the play establishes its footing, and while our characters wait for the hui to begin, they use the stage to discuss the psychic and cultural damage that occurs by forcing people into pigeonholes of identity, exploring the collision between different cultures.
While the play conceit is simple enough, Hui (Pronounced ‘Who-ee’) works into its run time deeply complex topics about what it means to shape one’s identity – something uniquely faced by Māori and Cook Islander communities (and others, of course) in Aotearoa New Zealand today. We are confronted with matters of language and habits of speech, being asked to perform cultural roles that aren’t authentic, multigenerational trauma, the idea of shame for being “a child of two tongues”, and “sounding like the things I hate [i.e. the coloniser] to survive a system that hates me.”
It would be arrogant to take a wide brush to the present and say that “Well, things are better now.” What Hui (Pronounced ‘Who-ee’) draws our attention to is the fact that the past is still with us – in indifferent senior leadership teams who want to meet diversity quotas or brownwash their operations, in well-meaning colleagues who only want Te Ao Māori “when it’s easy for them”, and in the living legacies of institutions. Hui (Pronounced ‘Who-ee’) brings this into sharp relief, providing a healthy recalibration of our perceptions.
With all this in mind, Hui (Pronounced ‘Who-ee’) could easily slip into preaching or patronising its audience, but Berryman and Marama’s relaxed warmth, natural comic timing and arresting stage energies keep the show safely on the right side of engaging. The characters note they “Can’t really sound normal around here” before agreeing to drop the forced accents of round o’s and short i’s that they put on to fit in – and it’s disarming and authentic enough to win us over early on.
These kinds of honest moments buoy along the brisk 40 minutes of the play which is overwhelmingly weighted on themes. As it stands, Hui (Pronounced ‘Who-ee’) is a fine show provoking big questions, and would work well as an informative show toured to schools; alternatively, it could potentially benefit from being developed out into an hour-plus offering with a stronger sense of plot.
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