Te Pou Tokomanawa Theatre, Corban Art Estate Centre, 2 Mount Lebanon Ln, Henderson, Auckland

05/05/2023 - 12/05/2023

Production Details

Writer: Tuakoi Ohia
Director: Amber Curreen

Te Pou Theatre / Te Rehia Theatre

KŌPŪ calls you into a cheeky ballad of a show sharing the song of our young wāhine Māori as they navigate this world, in the footsteps of our naughty nannies from the kāuta.

Our kāhui whetū of multi-talented performers weave live music, performance, poetry, and poi to share a hilarious honest, and no hold barred account of their experiences of wāhinetanga now; The day and night duality of being fiercely everything at once.

So, kindly unpeg yourself from the patriarchy, check your white feminism at the door, and join us in a hearty musical celebration of the ira Wāhine in us all.

Te Pou Theatre, Corban Arts Estate, Henderson
5 May – 12 May 2023

Thursday 4 May, 8pm
Friday 5 May, 8pm
Saturday 6 May, 8pm
Sunday 7 May, 4pm
Tuesday 9 May, 7:30pm
Wednesday 10 May, 7:30pm
Thursday 11 May, 8pm
Friday 12 May, 8pm
Saturday 13 May, 8pm
Sunday 14 May, 4pm
BOOK: Te Pou Theatre

Dramaturg: Tainui Tukiwaho
Choreographer: Kura Te Ua
Set Design: John Verryt
LIghting Design: Jane Hakaraia
Featuring performers; Tuakoi Ohia, Brady Peeti, Jane Leonard, Ngākirikiri Kershaw, Te Huamanuka Luiten-Apirana, and Te Arohanui Way-Korewha.

Cabaret , Kapa Haka theatre , Music , Performance Art , Theatre ,

90 minutes

A selection of thoughtful, funny, seamlessly woven and heart-grabbing vignettes

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 07th May 2023

Going to Te Pou Theatre is still a relatively new experience for many of us. You may have been before, but if you haven’t been for some time, you might need a bit of a refresher. There’s an excellent Te Pou Theatre website with heaps of information that will guarantee your experience will be tiptop, before you even arrive. See my tips at the end of this review.

I’ve been looking forward to experiencing Kōpū since I first saw the ads a few months ago. It just looked extraordinary.

Initially, looking at an attractive photograph of the cast, I recognised performers I knew and whose work I have grown to admire and, for me, that’s always the strongest hook. Narratives not so much, though I’d happily pay lots and more to find out what Shakespeare might do with Camilla, the Coronation, Harry and all the naughty Windsors. Not hard to guess though.

It’s pretty clear that, in time, Te Pou Theatre will be as well placed in as beautiful an environment as any you could imagine. Not quite there yet though, and my advice is to follow the signs which are very clear, and to avoid all extraneous potholes, which can be treacherous for older people when on foot.

I’m a bit of a traditionalist and I like the idea of walking into a theatre with a useful programme in my hot little hand full of tidbits of gossip and twenty-five-year-old cast photographs, something between old episodes of ‘Father Brown’ and today’s Variety magazine. But Te Pou is a modern theatre, and I am instead guided by my son to a QR code which gives me access to everything I need and more. Online. Bit daft, I think. “I won’t be able to consult my phone during the show to find out who’s doing what because I’ll get shushed by everyone.”

“2023,” says my lad empathically which is a bit like being shushed before I’ve even got in the door. I fiddle with it for a bit and discovered it is a great tool for having information at my fingertips and it won’t be an issue at all.  Feeling more than satisfied with my newfound technological skills, I link arms with my two trusty whānau members and we tripped (in my case literally) into the performance space.

It’s a great venue with excellent seating and a depth of stage to die for, not that we get to see a lot of that during Kōpū because a magnificent gauze hangs floor-to-ceiling close to the front of the performance area, allowing for a perfect size space for what is to come. The gauze is fabulous – a line-up of delicately framed giant faces – but more about them later. Suffice to say backlighting and some very smart staging allows for maximum use to the hanging drapery.

I am, however, immediately struck with a problem: I am advised in the programme, and from the stage by the writer, to leave my white feminism at the door. What to do, I think, as feminism of the white variety is rather all I’ve got, and I haven’t given a moment’s thought to the fact that I might be interpreting what I am about to experience, and write about, though a completely inappropriate lens. So, feeling even more like a charlatan than usual, I sink deep into my seat and hope no one will notice that I am here dressed liberally in my white feminism, ‘Free Germaine Greer’ protest badge and Posie Parker beret fully on show. Not easy to be invisible though, since my seat was right in the in the middle of the second row and I am visibly flanked by two other white feminists who don’t seem to be at all bothered by my potential humiliation. I probably shouldn’t worry because my whiteness, if not my potentially offending brand of feminism, is certainly clocked early on by the dozen or so people who pop over just to say hello – yes, it’s the sort of theatre where whanaungatanga really matters.

Proudly checking my phone for my programme – a first – I discover that the designer is John Verryt so the wonderful visuals I am looking at are all his doing, and the fact that I can see everything in a feast of fairy-tale light is down to Jane Hakaraia, and there is John Gibson listed as a ‘musical consultant’ reminding me that if you want to do the best work then get the best people and leave little or nothing to chance. What a line-up of the ‘best people’ whose work I already love.

So, back to the programme and ‘kindly unpeg yourself from the patriarchy’ – yes, got that – “check your white feminism at the door” – working on that – “and join us in a hearty musical celebration of the ira Wāhine in us all.”
“In us all”? That means everyone, so once again I’m included. So very happy.

Some factoids:
Kōpū was originally commissioned by Auckland Arts Festival and has been in development since 2021. After covid cancelled the planned Auckland Arts Festival 2022 premiere the team spent the year workshopping and sharing exclusive public showings of the work in progress. This 2023 Premiere season is presented in partnership with Te Rēhia Theatre Company.

So, while this is Day One, there’s been work done on the piece for some years now so it should be ready. This is a double-edged sword, of course, and could lead to over familiarisation and that dreadful dullness of repetition, or it could be a recipe for all that’s exciting in this sort of theatre, a sexy understanding of, and pride in, what they’ve got an intense desire to share.

Fortunately, it’s the latter and in spades. The show itself is splendid but it’s the people who shine.

Tuakoi Ohia is both writer and performer assisted by the dab hand of dramaturge Tainui Tukiwaho, director Amber Curreen and a coven of magnificent wāhine Māori who weave a net that traps us in its complexity, in its resonances, it’s reflections and it’s downright wicked naughtiness.

I know what I think it is – a series of beautifully crafted vignettes superbly performed – but what do these wonderful women say it is:

Of the show they say, “She is Kōpū i te ao, Parearau i te pō and if her teke could talk it would sound like this” and “Kōpū calls you into to a cheeky ballad of a show sharing the songs of our young wāhine Māori as they navigate this world, hairy nipples first, following in the footsteps of our naughty nannies from the kāuta. Our kāhui whetū of multi-talented performers weave live music, performance, poetry, and poi to share a hilarious, honest and no hold barred account of their experiences of wāhinetanga now; the day and night duality of being fiercely everything at once.”

Forget what I think it is, through my white feminist lens. (Yes, still smarting at that slap, but I own what I’m feeling, its entirely my problem … Judged for my whiteness is how minorities feel when stereotyped for their browness or their gender or sexual identity, I get that, but I’m still not quite ready to wear this new badge with anything approaching pride.) But please see the show as they describe it – a selection of thoughtful, funny, seamlessly woven and heart-grabbing vignettes that turn the audience inside out with the laughter of recognition one moment and sit it on its arse with shock a nanosecond later.

It’s profound stuff anchored in a ‘fuck it, let’s say it anyway’ commitment to saying the unsayable and then sharing a laugh about it. (OK, these are my words, so maybe I’m catching on – and who can be offended by anything we’ve all shared a good laugh about … not that any of it is offensive in any way whatsoever.)

It’s wonderful theatre and I hope it gets to play to the sort of audiences who need to be reminded that being a woman can be a messy, messy business and that we should all glory in the mess because that’s where we all come from and where most of us will end up. There are times when being a woman just ain’t pretty. 

My old mum used to say that the problem with naked men is that everything is so untidy. I thought of her a few times during the show because she’d have loved it, been shocked by it, frightened by it and changed by it. She’d have taken great joy in these wāhine Māori because, hairy nipples aside, everything they do is pure class (‘tidy’ in my Mums nomenclature), absolutely pure class.

I’ll name names because I want to but I won’t talk about individuals – well, maybe one – because that wouldn’t be fair. Each of these wāhine is a 120% singing, dancing, smirking, sniggering, chuckling, hooting, owning the moment, superstar; each wāhine is, in their time, brave, outrageous, heartfelt and so much the future that I feel hope in a way I haven’t felt it for quite a long time.

The onstage wāhine are Tuakoi Ohia (writer & performer), Te Huamanuka Luiten-Apirana (kaiwhakaari/performer), Brady Peeti (kaituhi & kaiwhakaari), Ngakirikiri Kershaw (kaituhi & kaiwhakaari). Behind the scenes there’s the sublime Amber Curreen (ringatohu/director), Jane Hakaraia (kaihoahoa tūrama/lighting designer), Te Ura Hoskins (kaihoahoa kaka/costume design), Teiaro Taikato (kaiwhakahaere atāmira/stage manager), Kura Te Ua (kaitito nekehanga/choreographer), Te Arohanui Way-Korewha (kaituhi & kaiwhakaari), Paige Pomana (kaihoahoa pūoro/sound designer), Jane Leonard (kaituhi & kaiwhakaari), and a quartet of damn fine blokes as well: John Gibson (mātanga puoro – musical consultant), John Verryt (kaihoahoa pae whakaari/set designer), Tainui Tukiwaho (dramaturge) and Maioha Allen (kaiwhakahaere/producer).

I must also, for a moment, acknowledge my bravest of brave sisters Brady Peeti because when she’s in the house you’ve got a choir in the house. What a voice, what courage: totally love you, my sister. Thank you for your queenly magnificence.

Big weekend actually: Crusaders won, Fijian Dua won, Moana Pasifika almost won, something grey happened in London, and Kōpū opened in Tāmaki Makaurau to a thoroughly earned standing ovation.

My white feminism approves, not that anyone should care. I certainly don’t. This work doesn’t need my praise, or anyone’s, it stands on its own in full frontal glory and the whole team at Te Pou should take a bow for making it possible.

Ka pai.

PS: I’m joking about my white feminism.

Here are some tips about Te Pou:

The bar will be open preshow and at interval with a full range of beverages (non-alcoholic and alcoholic). Te Kauta is open before the show for tasty kai including meals and snacks.

The whare is accessible to wheelchairs and walkers but best contact info@tepoutheatre.nz first so the theatre can anticipate your visit. Ushers are super helpful. Service animals are welcome but contact ticketing@tepoutheatre.nz before your come so the staff can anticipate your arrival.

If you have Covid and have been required to isolate, the theatre encourages you to share the gift of theatre by passing your ticket onto someone else to enjoy if you have to stay home. What a great idea. Masks are not required, but if you’re like me you are welcome to wear one.

Te Pou Theatre is located at Corban Estate Arts Centre, 2 Mt Lebanon Lane, Henderson, Waitakere. When you arrive at Corban Estate, follow the signs that lead to the theatre. There is also a scenic cycle way that leads to Corban Estate Arts Centre. Lock your bike up in the bike stand available on site. Or you can bus or train. Links arrive at Henderson Transport Centre, which is within walking distance of Te Pou. Check the public transport route in your area to plan your trip. Parking isn’t too bad. Follow parking directions when you arrive at Corban Estate Arts Centre, and you’ll get where you need to go.

For those of us, who are not always greeted with welcome signs and our light shows are most often in red and blue, I can assure you of the most extraordinary welcome at Te Pou no matter how you identify. I have attended shows here with whānau twice in recent times, and I can recommend arriving early to sample the kai in the café and, in my case, a rather nice merlot.

The website does make quite a big thing of contacting the theatre if you have any unique requirements and I can recommend this as everyone I have spoken to either on the phone, in person, and online has been really helpful, and generous. Literally ‘personal service’. I go to the theatre a lot and I can assure you this is not always the case at other venues.


Michael Smythe May 9th, 2023

The etymological explanation of woman v wahine was a high point and it was onward and upward from there. A brilliantly original theatrical experince not to be missed.

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