Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

20/06/2017 - 24/06/2017

Te Auaha, Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

01/06/2019 - 02/06/2019

Lawson Field Theatre, Gisborne

19/10/2019 - 19/10/2019

Matariki Festival 2017

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2019

Kia Mau festival 2019

Production Details

It’s 1999 and Kiwa struggles with the whole “being Māori” thing. Kiwa’s done with being judged – worst of all by his own people. How do black American fullas who live 20000km away make him feel more at home than ever? I Ain’t Mad at Cha is about a young Māori boys love for rhymes.

Part of Matariki Season

Jonty was lucky enough to chat with Turene Jones (Writer), Jatinder Singh (Director), and Ngahiriwa Rauhina (Producer). Read the blog here.

Basement Theatre Studio, Auckland
20 JUN – 24 JUN 2017
$18 – $20
Concession prices available to: Gold Card carriers, Equity members, Students – all with valid ID
Book Now

Lock-out: No entry after performance begins
Trigger warnings: Explicit Language
Age restrictions: PG13

Kia Mau Festival 2019

Te Auaha, 65 Dixon Street, Wellington
1-2 June 2019
1pm & 6:30pm

Doorsales are CASH ONLY at the door as there are no eftpos facilities at the venue!
Bring ya 15/18/20/25 bucks and see ya there! 

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival
Lawson Field Theatre
Saturday 19th Oct 2019
General Admission $15 

Kiwa Bolton – Ngahiriwa Rauhina
Ash Bolton – James Jennings
Mr. Raju/ Jamal – Ravi Gurunathan
Aira Bolton - Moana Johnson
Uncle Hamu – Wolfgang Schmidt
Izzy – Timmy Cameron  

Original Music by- Soul Chef
Raps by the actors (wrote their own raps)

Set design: Jatinder Singh and Wolfgang Schmidt
Lighting design: Amber Molloy

Tour Director - James Jennings 

Theatre ,

A completely stimulating theatrical experience

Review by Norman Maclean 21st Oct 2019

It has been plausibly suggested that new trends in street culture developed in the States reach this country via California to American Samoa then directly main-lined into South Auckland.  Break dancing, Hip-Hop and Rap are all examples of what some would term insidious influences.

Rap is well to the fore at Lawson Field Theatre in the dynamic and highly energetic performance of local man Turene Jones’ 70 minute play, in which aggression, frustration, confusion and personal doubt are often expressed in rapid-fire delivery of cleverly-rhymed Rap that has the audience chuckling throughout.  

Not that there is any shortage of dialogue.  Complete with all the vernacular of Gisborne’s streets and high school playgrounds, four young men and two women – one of whom is Pākehā – take us through the maze of adolescent tensions over everything from boy-girl relationships, mates and bros in conflict, parental stand-over tactics and problems in dealing with police. 

Central character, Kiwa, played with professional flourish by Ngahiriwa Rauhina, and his equally talented brother, Ash (James Jennings) dominate every scene to striking effect.  Changes of setting are slickly suggested by cast whisking chairs and a table to different positions.  This accomplished team – the others are Ravi Gurunathan, Moana Johnson, Wolfgang Schmidt and Timmy Cameron – performs with flair, so much at ease capering across the floor, taking the enthralled audience with them throughout.

On either side of the acting area, large white cloths are suspended with faces outlined in black: on the left, a noble Māori from a different age and opposite, in ubiquitous hoody and with familiar sneer, a Hendrix look-alike.  These two images, never directly referred to, convey the very substance of this production, which takes its name from a song by American Hip Hop artist, 2Pac. As stated in the programme: “Many Māori feel lost both within their own culture and the Pākehā world.”

“Why is everyone round here pretending to be black?” one character demands early on and the response is, “Because it’s fun.” Indeed, but the play draws out what a sense of personal failure and lost opportunities are likely to result from this.

We are drawn straight into the heart of this matter in everything from expressed attitudes to school, to the lure of drugs, a fierce dispute with Mr Raju (Gurunathan), the fiery owner of a local dairy and a stand-off with Uncle Hamu (Schmidt), a cop trying to do his best but despised for his upholding of the law, despite the miscreants being his own relatives. 

With mandatory reversed caps, the boys roar their irritation at the diary owner, at their sensible and commanding Mum, Aria – beautifully conveyed by Johnson – and at Hamu who tries to persuade the nephews they could do and be, better than they are.  Combined with fear of an accidental pregnancy – what a convincing and compelling upset girl-friend, Izzy (Cameron) – I Ain’t Mad at Cha is a completely stimulating theatrical experience.

If you missed it, you missed a cracker. 


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A very absorbing exploration

Review by John Smythe 02nd Jun 2019

“Hip-hop transcends racial boundaries,” Kiwa declares in Turene Jones I Ain’t Mad At Cha. And rap is the only way he can really express his true feelings.

After a South Auckland schools tour, two seasons at Auckland’s Basement Theatre then a nine month break, this energetic Waitī Productions show comes to Pōneke (Wellington) and the Kia Mau Festival for just two shows.

The set comprises two screens, one holding the image of a rangatira tipuna, the other a contemporary youth in a hoodie. The rangatira was doubtless a great warrior and orator. The youth has a different way of evolving and asserting his mana.  

Kiwa Bolton (Ngahiriwa Rauhina), his younger brother Ash (James Jennings) and their mate Jamal Raju (Ravi Gurunathan) are schoolboys. Their adolescent inclination to one-up each other with insult banter, which could easily lead to a fight, resolves instead in a rap battle between Kiwa and Jamal. Verbal and rhyming skills transcend fists and wrestling holds.

Kiwa’s prowess is attractive to Izzy (Timmy Cameron), who dabbles in some hip-hop moves herself. His preference to hang with his mates only makes her more interested in him. But when Ash accuses Kiwa of acting like a gangsta wannabe pretending to be black instead of being a little Māori boy from Tūranga, Kiwa decides to drop in on home-alone Izzy. Clearly she wants more commitment in the relationship than he is prepared to give.

At home, the Bolton brothers prefer the Street Fighter video game to homework. And Ash claims being better at it than his older brother. He has also scored some weed – which their mother, Aira (Moana Johnson) smells … The subsequent dynamics around the kitchen table would resonate with families anywhere. But Aira’s concern that her boys will “end up like every other Māori round here” jolts us into awareness of ‘racial profiling’ which becomes a major theme as the well-wrought plot evolves.

An event at the local shop, owned by Jamal’s dad, Mr Raju (also played by Ravi Gurunathan: a fully realised transformation), brings the boys’ Uncle Hamu (Wolfgang Schmidt) into the picture in a way that makes the issue even more complex when Ash challenges Hamu’s value system. As for when Aira discovers what’s happened … Suffice to say the law of the land and family lore don’t necessarily blend as one.

We in the audience are not allowed a comfortable ride as we come to understand everyone’s point of view, especially as laid out by Kiwa and Jamal in their final rap battle – all raps written by actors doing them, by the way. Izzy and Kiwa come to an understanding too … Or do they?

“I ain’t mad at cha” is a recurring line spoken by Kiwa as he navigates through frustration and anger to a better understanding of other points of view. But he’s still a boy with a lot of maturing to do before he’s ready to take on the responsibilities of a man. And Izzy has a point when she suggests people are only ready to have sex when they are ready to have a baby. That, too, is something for us to ponder.

Directed by Jatinder Singh, with James Jennings as tour director and Cian Elyse White as producer, I Ain’t Mad At Cha starts out as youthful playground banter and, skilfully played out by the whole cast, grows into an increasingly absorbing exploration of personal, familial and community dynamics, confronting issues that apply to every generation. 


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A fresh and powerful approach to stubbornly prevalent and relevant issues

Review by Leigh Sykes 24th Jun 2017

The show is described as a Māori rap musical about ‘a young Māori boy’s love for rhymes’. I cannot claim to be a connoisseur of rap music, so I am intrigued to see what this new kind of musical looks like.

The show begins as Kiwa (Tyler Wilson-Kokiri) steps into a spotlight and other characters move around him, not speaking, but instead using different movement styles to suggest their different characters. The rest of the cast then bursts back onto the stage, full of infectious energy.

The first scene quickly and economically establishes the situation, as Kiwa and his friends take part in the usual discussions, arguments and insults that play out during school. The audience is quickly drawn into this energetic and enthusiastic group, as some of the insults fly our way, and laughter is quick to follow.

Jamal (Ravi Gurunathan) leads the way with his quick wit and irrepressible liveliness, and everyone in the group is having so much fun that it’s impossible not to feel energised by them. We are invited to join in as music is discussed and played, and everyone does so enthusiastically.

The dialogue is fast and furious and achieves a lovely balance between humour and seriousness. It authentically inhabits the space that Isabel (Timothea [Timmie] Cameron) describes in a later scene as saying something in a humorous way, but actually meaning it. Through the verbal sparring, it becomes clear very quickly that Kiwa loves rap music but is mocked for some aspects of his affection, such as his not-quite-authentic snapback and his keenness to battle.

A rap battle is deemed necessary and Kiwa’s opponent is Jamal who is second-generation Indian, and whose situation has many parallels to Kiwa’s. This battle allows the performers to showcase their abilities (I learn later that the raps were written for the characters by the performers), while touching on themes of stereotyping and discrimination that resonate with the characters and the audience. The raps are cleverly constructed, combining ideas and verbal dexterity in a way that has me smiling with the sheer joy of hearing them.

Both Wilson-Kokiri and Gurunathan are impressive performers, handling the verbal and physical fireworks of rapping with assurance. By the end of the battle, Jamal is annoyed that Kiwa has manipulated the battle to ensure he will win, and leaves in anger. This is the first of a number of conflicts Kiwa will face.

From this high-powered beginning, the story moves into exploring the other aspects that dominate Kiwa’s life: relationships and family. Kiwa and Isabel have a very physical relationship but Kiwa wants to keep it on the down low while Isabel wants to make it ‘official’. The fact that Isabel is Pākehā may be part of the reason for Kiwa’s discomfort about the relationship, and the scene identifies many of the stereotypical attitudes that young Māori face. Kiwa resists the idea of putting labels on the relationship and this unwillingness to be labelled is a theme that runs through the rest of the show.

As the conflict builds, Kiwa and Isabel articulate their emotions via song (in this case Rap) when they cannot express them in any other way, just as heightened emotions are expressed by characters via the musical style of any other musical. In this case, it happens to be a style of music that we don’t expect. It is pleasing to see Isabel join in a rap duet and then continue solo as she struggles to understand Kiwa’s reluctance to ‘officially’ be with her. However, this is another conflict that can’t be resolved immediately. 

Kiwa next spends time with his brother, Ashton (James Jennings), who is the ‘good’ boy of the family. Both brothers know that they have been labelled and this is explored through their duet. Kiwa persuades Ashton to smoke with him, with the inevitable consequence that their Mum (Sādelle Fe’ao) finds out. The scene the morning after is beautifully played, with Fe’ao astutely capturing the restrained fury of a disappointed Mum.

Kiwa and Ashton are punished by being sent to get milk, and their visit to the dairy allows more conflict to be created. Mr Raju (Gurunathan again) is uncomfortable with the Māori boys, assuming that they are there to steal and make trouble. His assumptions seem to be confirmed when Kiwa becomes angry with the way he is being treated and the three characters perform a powerful rap displaying their different perspectives of the situation.

Ultimately the police are called and Officer Hamuera Samuels (Ngahiriwa Rauhina), who also happens to be Kiwa’s uncle, arrives. The scene that follows explores the way that Hamu sees himself as separate from the ‘hori’ Maōri he believes Kiwa represents. It is suggested that Hamu believes he has to be harder on Māori (and his own family) than other potential offenders, in order to prove he is ‘better’ than them. These are uncomfortable views to hear expressed, highlighting divisions between Māori and Māori.

From this high point of conflict, the problems that have been established are re-addressed. Kiwa and Ashton’s Mum is disgusted with the way her brother has treated her boys and is ready to lay a formal complaint against him, at the expense of family harmony. Hard-hitting views are expressed as she reminds Hamu of the struggles his own family has faced, and the siblings part without resolving their own conflict. There is also humour here, especially when Ashton exclaims (very meta-theatrically) that he wishes people would stop rapping as he feels like he’s in a musical!

Jamal arrives to hang out and this meeting is particularly uncomfortable as both he and Kiwa struggle to identify and accept that Mr Raju has racist views towards Kiwa and Ashton. Gurunathan’s performance as he raps his conflicting feelings towards family and friendship is extremely powerful, and we feel his pain and confusion before he and Kiwa are able state that they “ain’t mad at cha”. This line becomes the limited resolution that Kiwa finds in his conflicts with his friends and family, and it is only limited because the external situation Kiwa is in does not really change.

I feel like the show ends before I am ready for it to stop, possibly because there is a sense that Kiwa’s conflicts are too deeply ingrained in his situation to be fully resolved. 

I am impressed by so many things about this show. Director Jatinder Singh keeps the action moving forward with simple and effective staging decisions, and he has drawn uniformly powerful performances from his cast. I am also impressed with the smartness of Turene Jones’ writing. The dialogue is authentic and dense with material that identifies and illuminates so many attitudes and perceptions that lead to prejudice and discrimination. The show is cleverly structured too, in the way conflicts are set up and then re-visited.

I feel it is particularly important that the show allows for many different types of discrimination and prejudice to be explored, as the experiences of Māori, Pākehā and Immigrants are all touched on. Some of the most interesting issues that are raised, such as the division within the Māori community and the perceptions of Immigrants are only touched on briefly and I would be interested to see if these themes could be developed further. Although there is not space for all of these different issues to be explored fully, it is important they are recognised.

The style of the show creates a fresh voice with which to explore its themes and ideas and, by evoking the alienation and disillusionment within the USA that helped to popularise rap and hip-hop within specific ethnic and social groups, the show makes us consider what is making our own young people (particularly men) so disenchanted and disenfranchised. Why should a young Māori man be drawn to music that epitomises black struggle? When Rodney King is referenced during the opening scene, I feel it is a shocking suggestion of where some young people feel they could end up due to the current atmosphere of casual and sometimes institutional racism that they perceive around them. 

The show does not offer solutions to the issues it raises, and it may not even identify all of the issues, but what it does do is offer the opportunity to approach the conversations that need to be had from a fresh direction. Kiwa finds his way to a place where he can say “I ain’t mad at cha” to the people around him, and perhaps the suggestion is that we need to use different means to arrive at that place with respect to the issues of discrimination and prejudice that are explored in the show.   

In an interview about the show, producer and actor Ngahiriwa Rauhina explains that Matariki, for him, “means the beginning of a new era! It means nurturing new life and helping begin new things. For us and the crew we’ve taken that in the sense of our craft and art form. It’s about giving the new voice a platform to express, create, expand, and ultimately find itself.”

This show certainly offers a fresh and new way of approaching issues that are stubbornly prevalent in Aotearoa (and elsewhere) today. This is topical and relevant work that will speak powerfully to many people, and I am looking forward to seeing the work that this talented group creates in the future.


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