Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

04/08/2016 - 13/08/2016

Production Details

Artistic director: Pedro Ilgenfritz

Presented by Mahuika Theatre Company


Contemporary Kiwi archetypes combine with traditional Commedia Dell’Arte to create a new and enchanting theatrical language for the debut work of Mahuika Theatre Company: Leilani premiering at Q Theatre Loft from August 4th – 13th.

Sweet, young Leilani has the best news to share and life is great, until she is left heartbroken and discarded by the people who are supposed to love her most. Junior dumps her, the less-than-lovely Aroha kicks her out and rumours about her spread. Homeless, friendless and expecting. What will Leilani do? Where will she go? Leilani encounters the kiwi characters that inhabit our world – from the Queen of K Rd to the city’s homeless to the young urban capitalist. Leilani searches for home, amongst familiar faces, in the most unlikely of places. 

Leilani is a comedic melodrama that asks audiences to take a real look at the society we live in.  This original production uses eight half-masks representing eight Kiwi archetypes, to tell its story. The specially crafted masks have been refined over two years of character development, sculpting and workshopping. This idea of using and developing mask was inspired by the Italian Commedia Dell’Arte and when combined with Kiwi characters creates a new language named by the company as Aotearoa Dell’Arte. Mask is used to transport audiences to a world of theatre where enchantment and illusion thrive.

“The masks are incredibly original and speak truthfully to a New Zealand mixed identity”. – (Chye-Ling Huang, Pretty Asian Theatre)

Leilani is the first work to be staged by Mahuika Theatre Company. Under the artistic direction of respected director, lecturer and actor Pedro Ilgenfritz the company aims to create a platform to develop young female practitioners in the arts through mask and physical theatre. NZ audiences have been exposed to similar genres of work by successful NZ touring companies including Indian Ink, Red Leap and Theatre Stampede. Mahuika Theatre Company have already had interest from Italy to tour this work in September 2016.

Three emerging female actors take on the challenge of playing all eight characters in this quick, heart-warming tale. Irasa Siave, Natasha Daniel and Amy Karaitiana met while training at Unitec and are thrilled to bring this new work to the stage for this MATCHBOX premiere season.

Revered NZ Playwright Gary Henderson joins the team as Script Developer.

Q Theatre Loft,
Thu 4th – Sat 13th August 2016,
No shows Sunday and Monday
Tickets: $15-$28 (Booking fees may apply)
Tickets from www.qtheatre.co.nz

Leilani is presented as part of MATCHBOX, the Q Theatre creative development programme.

Q Theatre is an independently owned and operated performing arts venue in Auckland’s CBD, committed to the sustainability and success of arts and culture. Every year Q co-presents a season of shows through its creative development programme, MATCHBOX (formerly known as ‘Q Presents’). MATCHBOX enables the best emerging and professional New Zealand performing artists to bring their ideas to life on stage. Through a three-step selection process Q curates a MATCHBOX Season that pushes boundaries, showcases Q’s transformative venue to the fullest, and delivers unique experiences for audiences.

To find out more about Q Theatre and MATCHBOX visit www.qtheatre.co.nz/matchbox

Irasa Siave
Natasha Daniel
Amy Karaitiana

Theatre , Mask , Physical , Comedy ,

Finding Ourselves in the Form

Review by Jess Holly Bates 11th Aug 2016

Sometimes there is nothing so magical as a girl, on a stage, sitting on a rubbish bag.  

With every funding cut scything away at our creative waistlines, the Arts are now in a position where every show must first justify its existence. Why do we bother to make theatre – especially under these conditions? Sitting in the captivated full house audience of Leilani, playing in Q Theatre’s Loft, watching dungaree-ed actress Irasa Siave sink fluidly onto a black rubbish sack, I know exactly why. [More


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Giggles a work in progress

Review by Janet McAllister 08th Aug 2016

Leilani‘s “Aotearoa Dell’Arte” masks (made by Kate Lang) are clever, and the stylised acting that brings them to life is excellent but, after a promising prologue, this comic “melodrama” about serious matters doesn’t quite hit the mark. Still, this is a development season – part of Q Theatre’s Matchbox Series – and Unitec lecturer Pedro Ilgenfritz’s new Mahuika Theatre Company has a lot of potential.

On its debut, Mahuika aims to present timeless “archetypes” but they seem like old-fashioned flat clichés: the “clingy, stifling” girlfriend, the harridan, the homeless man with a heart of gold. The sexy narcissist is more successful, but it’s hard for a hen-pecked husband to be topsy-turvy funny when women are no longer expected to be subservient and men are no longer expected to rule the roost. [More


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Considerable heart and soul in truthful caricature

Review by Nik Smythe 05th Aug 2016

The atmosphere feels energised and optimistic as the capacity audience settles for this world premiere of emergent theatre company Mahuika’s debut production.  Overall the optimism is fully justified; artistic director Pedro Ilgenfritz honors the historic occasion with a short introductory speech and humble acknowledgements.

The action begins before the lights go down, as larger-than-life half-mask characters Leilani (Irasa Siave) and her boyfriend Junior (Aymee Karaitiana-Jones) enter as latecomers to their own story; as I write that it strikes me as poignant.  Just where the meta-prologue ends and the play proper begins is as nebulous as it is ultimately irrelevant. 

Siave’s sole-role performance is wholly innocent, openhearted and naïve.  She is an adult, complicit in the exciting news she reveals early on, yet her awkward dress-sense and simple, child-like demeanour belies her physical maturity.  Equally simple in his own cuzzy-bro way, the apparent charm of Karaitiana-Jones’ is diminished by a dishonest, self-serving streak.

Each character is identified by a unique mask, as well as distinctive costumes (designed by Rhianna Crawford), and appropriately idiosyncratic physical and vocal characteristics as informed by the energy with which the masks imbue them.  The speed of some of the off-stage transformations is considerable. 

It’s all downhill from the enthusiastic start for poor Leilani, which is to say there are ups and downs along the way, but everything that transpires is essentially a compromise to the confident idealism she began with.  A passive protagonist, she spends the duration of the narrative subjected to the will of others, powerless to take any kind of control of the situation for herself. 

Including Junior, Karatainia-Jones performs four impressively diverse roles, as does third cast member Natasha Daniel.  Leilani aside, the other female roles are all rather insensitive, demanding and altogether pretty cruel: Aroha (Daniel) the sassy glamour girl; Sarah (Karatainia-Jones) the domineering shrew and Paihia (Karatainia-Jones again), the self-serving vagrant entrepreneur.

Karatainia-Jones’ male roles are similarly narcissistic: the arguably complex idiot Junior, and the downright sleazy pig-man Lloyd, a rather horrid specimen of urban corruption.  Only Daniel’s portrayals of eager-to-please, browbeaten milquetoast Tim and romantic homeless philosopher Trev offer any degree of empathy or benevolence. 

Kate Lang’s mask designs, made with assistance from Ilgenfritz, are less exaggerated than the classical Commedia style.  Nonetheless, comparatively subtle features provide clear distinctions between their respective personae, augmented in no small part by equally distinct characterisations. 

It’s intriguing to note how such broad, cartoonish caricatures can engender such relatable, familiar humanity.  The pointed poses on each entrance and double takes as they exit emphasise the heightened meta-reality of their melodramatic world. 

Designer Marshall Bull’s practically minimal set, well-appointed for travel, comprises two tall hinged screens evoke generations of urban development with bits of piping and building materials among layers of black, brown and white paint. 

Linking scenes and punctuating the emotional beats of the story, John Ellis’s musical composition has a definitive air of classic piano-accordion–centric French folk music, peculiarly appropriate for the tone of the overall production. 

Gary Henderson’s script advisor credit implies the work has been devised and dramaturged by the director and cast.  Dialogue is exaggeratedly simple and frank, with only occasional moments of poeticism seasoning the otherwise frank, perfunctory verbal exchanges.  The considerable heart and soul of Leilani lies in the truth of its characters. 


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