Ngâ Manurere

Waipapa Marae, Auck Uni, Auckland

08/06/2009 - 10/06/2009

The Auckland Performing Arts Centre: TAPAC, Auckland

03/06/2009 - 06/06/2009

Production Details

Keisha’s first theatre role

Keisha Castle-Hughes will make her first theatrical appearance this June in the new play Ngā Manurere as part of this year’s Matariki celebration. Directed by Katie Wolfe, the show was penned by writer/actress Renae Maihi.  

Castle-Hughes auditioned for the part alongside other talented Auckland actors, landing a main role as Wai, one of the four women in Ngā Manurere.  Castle-Hughes says she is happy to have the chance to get on stage, something she has never done before and is eager to try. Director Wolfe says her "mix of vulnerability and a great sense for comedy" made her perfect for the part.

Ngā Manurere follows Manawa’s (Nicola Kawana) journey to reconnect with the son Morehu (Pana Hema-Taylor) she gave up through whangai.  Supported by her closest friends Wai, Rina and Jess who are all single mothers, the women are tied together by roots and friendship, but each secretly harbours their own view on Manawa and the son to whom she is a stranger.

At once funny and shocking, the play explores the everyday experience of being a solo mum with honesty and humour. It also reveals a terrible truth that exposes the danger of emotional silence.

Castle-Hughes character is Wai, a young girl from the city who has never been on a marae and still pines for the absent father of her young son. Lana Garland plays Rina, a big-hearted DPB career mum who has devoted her life to her son and relatives. Newcomer Maihi is Jess, an ambitious young family court lawyer who spends more time on her career than with her child. Uncle Rongo (William Davis) is grandfather to them all.

Writer Renae Maihi was discovered at the Matariki play conference last year. Directed by Katie Wolfe, the show weaves traditional Mâori performance forms such as poi, waiata, haka and moteatea through the fabric of a contemporary urban story. It will be staged in theatre and marae spaces.

This is current New Zealand theatre at its purest, stripped to bare essentials of story and actors, presented by an all star cast that have come together to give voice to our sole-flight mothers.

Ngā Manurere is on at
TAPAC performing arts centre  
8pm June 3rd-6th
bookings through TAPAC
ph| 09 845 0295
Matinee on the 6th at 2pm

Waipapa Marae
– June 8-10
Door sales only – 16 Wynyard St Auckland Uni campus






Nicola Kawana
Wai:  Keisha Castle Hughes
Rina:  Renae Maihi
Jess:  Lana Garland
Morehu:  Pana Hema-Taylor
Rongo:  Willia m Davis 

Producer:  Tainui Tukiwaho
Marketing:  Ben Wood 
Wardrobe/Set/Props:  Dannielle Cormack
Stage Mangager: :  Te Kaea
Operator:  Chanel Simpson 






Potent Maori writer ready to soar

Review by Tamati Patuwai 11th Jun 2009

Waiata laments emanate from the darkness as Poi and Taiaha carve spirals into the still air. Such are the poignant opening moments of Renae Maihi’s Nga Manurere debut; a decent and welcome piece of Māori theatre that traverses the stories of four mothers who, in unified piety, soldier on with their lot in a world of lost loves, conflicted desires and mumbling men who are more hoha than anything else.

First time playwright Maihi’s intentions are clear, giving a jam-packed spread of experiences that affect Māori Mum’s day in and day out. However Nga Manurere doesn’t quite reach its complete resolve. As is common with a first effort, the many character points subtly weaved in at the beginning are at times over-exerted through a thin and unsubstantiated second half. 

In saying all of this, the players themselves do manage to squeeze out some of the piece’s more delicate gems.

Keisha Castle-Hughes plays the erratic techno teen and recently dumped solo mother Wai. She brings familiarity and laughter to the floor, as does the Koroua, Rongo, who is played masterfully by seasoned player Willy Davis.

Furthermore the enigmatic Pana Hema-Taylor, who plays the seething prodigal son Morehu, is a force to be reckoned with and I, for one, look forward to more of his mahi.

Maihi takes a leap of faith stepping into one of her own characters’ shoes. Admirable as it is to see this, it must be noted that both script and the character of Rina might’ve benefitted more if Maihi remained solely in the writer’s chair. Although a common temptation presented to actor / writers, the gains from having a perspective from viewing the development of the piece from the outside shouldn’t be overlooked.

Katie Wolfe’s treatment of the brave yet difficult piece is done with obvious skill, drawing some real magic from the actors as, it could be said, only an actor knows how. Wolfe’s compelling directing style is impressive, crafted with vigilant and courageous strokes.

The set is sparse with three seats that seem to reflect Pa fencing at one moment and Tiwaiwaka the next. The stage itself is presented in a thrust setting with audience surrounding three of the performance area sides. I did feel for one side of the audience as they shaded their squinting eyes owing to the lights that were focussed directly into their sight lines. 

The cast sings and chants with clarity and sweetness. However what could’ve been a stunning Soundscape is regrettably undersized with the over use of Lady 6’s "Walk Right Up" tune. In fact this song, which is one of my favourite NZ tunes, ends up sounding like an obvious "lighten the moment up" signal which becomes a distraction more than anything else.

I intentionally waited for the play to come to the Marae as opposed to going to TAPAC as I wanted to experience the piece within a Māori environment. The sensitivity within the depiction of themes such as death, rape and loss increase their significance when presented within this context. The tapu that surrounds the space can only enhance and compliment such portrayals and I commend the cast and crew for stepping that way.

However, there are some basic protocol issues that a few of my Aunties would certainly have issue with in regards to Nga Manurere but with respect to my colleagues and tikanga I will leave it at that, and I will present these thoughts kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) with the ensemble.

I support other reviewers and congratulate Renae Maihi for an ambitious debut. The fact of the matter is that the audience cried and laughed so the piece certainly did strum the heart strings. With attention on some key details this piece will soar.

Maihi’s place is set as a new age of potent Māori writers step up. Karawhiua mai e te Tuahine.

Heoi ano e tatou ma. Ka nui nga mihi ki te tira whakaari me o koutou tini Pukenga kia whakapuaki enei ahuatanga ki te Ao whanui. He mihi tenei ki a koutou e whakapau werawera ana ki runga I te papa mahi ra. Kia kaha e Renae. Kaare e kore he oranga atu I tenei wahanga mo te whakaari nei. No reira me ata kawe i to tatou taonga ki te manawatanga o te Matua runga rawa. Mauri Ora ora e.
Naku iti noa
Tamati Patuwai
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 




Make a comment

Fledgling playwright’s subtle touch tugs the heartstrings

Review by Janet McAllister 05th Jun 2009

The simple, heart-wrenching, low-lit climax of Nga Manurere is a reminder there can be more power in a quiet retelling than in a histrionic screaming match.

As such, it bucks family drama trends – a welcome relief. In just under 90 minutes, rather than bashing the audience over the head with a moral, young playwright Renae Maihi uses subtlety with a well-placed, mature confidence that deserves accolades. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Make a comment

Honest, funny, emotionally raw

Review by Sian Robertson 04th Jun 2009

The mood is set with a formidable karakia. A simple, elegant set gives just a suggestion of the scene. Much of the play is set outdoors, and though the set doesn’t change, an atmosphere is evoked that allows me to smell the grass and feel the breeze on my face.

Three women accompany their friend Manawa (Nicola Kawana) to offer support as she goes back home for the first time in sixteen years to be at her mother’s tangi, and reunite with her son Morehu (Pana Hema-Taylor) whom she left behind as a baby to be cared for by her mother and uncle.

The old woman’s dying wish is for Morehu to move down to Auckland to live with his mother, whom he has never known. But Manawa’s trepidation at forging a relationship with her teenage son is not unfounded. He is unwilling to suddenly let her into his life and forgive her for abandoning him. Although she has her reasons, she closely guards her secret.

Manawa and her son were both brought up on the same marae, by the same mother, yet through Manawa’s eyes the place is an unhappy one filled with regret, whereas to Morehu it signifies peace and security, and he doesn’t want to leave.

The four friends are all single mothers of sons, and each is struggling with the heartbreaking question of what it means to be a good mother… whether to be there for them all the time, even when she doesn’t feel strong enough; whether to sacrifice everything or to fulfil her own dreams; whether to tell them the horrible truth or protect them from it.

As much as it is about motherhood, the play also illustrates the highs and lows of female friendship, as essential as the air we breathe, with its solidarity amidst grief and loss, its bitter fights, and forgiveness.

Nga Manurere is honest, funny and emotionally raw (there was plenty of sniffing and tear-wiping in the audience on opening night). The beauty of its characters – sharply defined by Renae Mahi’s observant script and brought to life by a team of talented actors under the insightful direction of Katie Wolfe – is that though they have their differences, all are easy to sympathise with, each for different reasons.

Keisha Castle-Hughes is the tragi-comic relief as self-absorbed young Wai, in the throes of getting over her son’s father (who is with someone else), but still nursing her phone hopefully.

Pana Hema-Taylor convincingly plays sixteen-year-old Morehu, who is looking for answers but fighting against getting to know the mother who abandoned him.

Lana Garland is quick-witted, career-driven Jess who doesn’t have time to be a mum, but is a staunch and non-judgemental friend to Manawa.

Renae Mahi, who wrote the script, also plays Manawa’s friend Rina, the righteous, loving but indulgent mum, full of unwanted advice.

Old Uncle Rongo, who has been like a father to Morehu, is played with humour and sensitivity by William Davis.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo