Te Auaha - Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

09/06/2021 - 12/06/2021

Kia Mau Festival 2021

Production Details

World Premiere Season

A devised physical theatre work that explores the pillars of Māoridom, Neke is the search, the hunt and the celebration of what navigates our individual haerenga as Māori.

Kia tūhonoga tatou. To connect us.

Neke is about discovering kaitiakitanga, remembrance, the inner haka and the evolution of mana motuhake.

Join us for this thought provoking and magnetic piece of theatre.

Told through movement, character, voice and hard out crack ups.

Neke is the debut work by celebrated Māori theatre, film and television actor Scotty Cotter.

Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon St, Wellington
09 – 12 June 2021
$15 – $30

Cast + Collaborators:
Shania Bailey-Edmonds
Moana Ete
Te Hau Winitana
Reuben Butler
Dominic Ona-Ariki

DIRECTOR: Scotty Cotter
PRODUCER: Scotty Cotter
PRODUCER: Marg Goldsmith

SET DESIGNER: Tracey Tawhiao
WARDROBE: Amy Macaskill
KAI AWHINA: Tane Rolfe
KAI AWHINA: Solomon Fuemana

Theatre , Te Reo Māori , Physical ,

1 hr 15 min

Māori perspective presented in a Māori way by Māori for everyone

Review by Patrick Hape 14th Jun 2021

Neke, meaning to move or shift, uses contemporary methods of theatre and traditional concepts of Māori performing arts to move or shift audience perceptions of kaupapa Māori or Māori issues.  

Whether you are Māori or not, Neke uses a dynamic cast, fluid movements, and a simple and creative set to challenge the audience’s understanding of kaupapa Māori. Neke provides a patch work quilt kind of experience by successfully weaving together different aspects of theatre to bring various Māori stories and characters to life. Neke is bold, diverse, varied and unapologetically Māori – and for that, I am thankful.  

“E koekoe te tūī, e ketekete te kākā, e kūkū te kereru”

The 5-person cast gives life to a myriad of characters who represent various faces of Māori society. From taniwha guardians to the famous marae aunty, to the policy analyst, to the cuzzy from the back of the marae, to the te reo Māori student – they were all there. The cast gives each character a unique persona that resonates with the audience who chuckle, empathise and connect with them all.

The singing, the acting, the dancing all come to life with the cast. Each character is crafted to be a storyteller by reflecting Māori society, by engaging with the audience and by conveying the various messages of each scene. As individuals and as a collective, the performers successfully tell their stories and add to the patchwork quilt that is Neke.

“Kua tū te haka a Tānerore”

The show is a marriage of contemporary dance and different haka-related movements that are bold, sharp and fluid.

The production uses kapa haka movements throughout that included toroparawai (foot movements), pūkana and whākana (facial expressions), and taparahi (ceremonial haka movements). Of particular note is the use of haka taparahi to physically demonstrate a piece of spoken word. Generally, haka combines te reo Māori poetry with physical movements. One particular scene within the production replaces te reo Māori in the haka with English. The character perform a haka in English to demonstrate the meaning of haka and to ensure the message is heard and understood – te reo Māori is nearly lost.

The expressions of the deaf taniwha are also noteworthy. The characterisation of the taniwha through the use of fluid actions helps to understand the body of the taniwha. The animated face of the taniwha helps the audience understand the sign language that is also integrated into these scenes. The taniwha engages with the audience in a way that is reliant on the understanding of movement. The compelling presentation through face and gestures is mesmerising and created a connection with the audience.

“Me he whare pūngāwerewere”

The simplistic set provides a blank canvas to illustrate Māori concepts, ideas, and movement. The set is basic with triangular flag shaped panels with black and white kōwhaiwhai designs hung to create stage legs. The set also integrates projections of still and moving images in conjunction with simple but effective lighting.

The lighting during some of the dance scenes is notable because of the projected shadows who join the dance. One dancer turns into many. The strong choreography is transformed onto the back of the stage giving more life to the movement.

“Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori”

The performers, the movement and the set help to shine light onto some Māori issues like the history of te reo Māori, the concept of kaitiaki, and the role of storytelling and performance to highlight and address Māori issues. Although it is difficult for me to tie one theme and story throughout the show, the numerous themes that are woven throughout are sufficient to stir emotion, thought, and interest.

“Kōrero Māori – kaua e whakamā” is a line that continues to resonate with me since the show. As a fluent speaker of te reo Māori myself, who intentionally chooses to communicate with fluent speakers in English, these words make me reflect on my role in the revitalisation of te reo Māori. Neke reminds me of the hardship my grandparents’ generation endured because they spoke te reo Māori. The continuous strikes on the characters in the production remind everyone of the pain inflicted for speaking te reo Māori. These strikes provide context to the young girl announcing that she is “here to pick up [her] language” and to those internalising their insecurities during karakia (prayers) whilst visiting the marae. The production is bold enough to address the historic challenges of te reo Māori and celebrate the wins by making the messages easy to engage so people can relate.

Kaitiaki or guardian characters and symbols are thoughtfully woven throughout the show. The taniwha and forest characters, the written names of Atua on the triangular flags, the images of tiki and the sewn protection all speak to different aspects of kaitiaki. This is another example where the show has provided layers to understand a Māori concept. The layers demonstrate the intricacies within the concepts but present them in digestible forms for the audience to take and consider.

The piecemeal style of the show has provided a taste of Māori issues that have been presented in a Māori way – by Māori for everyone. The key for me is the power of storytelling and its many facets. Indigenous stories are not just written, they are sung, they are performed, they are recited, they are etched in art and they provide sufficient sustenance to those who are privileged to enjoy them. Neke has used all forms of storytelling to introduce audiences to Māori concepts, issues and characters. Neke brings the many faces and issues of Māori society to life through interpretive movement, through acting, through song, through poetry and through haka. Neke weaves together different stories with different storytelling methods to generate some level of move or shift in the audience’s perception of Māori issues – and for that, I am thankful.


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