Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

18/06/2022 - 25/06/2022

Production Details

Written & Directed by Hone Kouka
Choreography by Braedyn Togi

Presented by Tawata Productions


Indigenous. Dance. Theatre. Farce.

Unapologetically indigenous and indescribably farcical, Tawata Productions’ new work Ngā Roriroriis the unmissable return to the theatre Te Whanganui-a-Tara has been waiting for. Part theatre, part dance, part cinema, this ground-breaking work from acclaimed Māori playwright and director Hone Kouka premieres 18 – 25 June at Circa Theatre in Wellington, with tickets now on sale at

A rural marae has hit the jackpot – if they pass one final hurdle, that is.

The haukāinga must convince the Government’s Chief Executive of the Department of ‘Whenua, Whakapapa and Whatever’ that they are the true descendants of their eponymous ancestor!

If they are successful at doing so, the vast coastline in their rohe reverts to their ownership, garnering millions of dollars… in back rent alone.

Ngā Rorirori (The Idiots in Te Reo Pākehā) is a comical foray into one whānau’s relationship with their whenua, and their quest to turn their coastline into a cash cow. In question here are Pillow and Manuela Rorirori – a brother and sister who also happen to be the only two members of their hapū. He’s a convicted fraudster who’s returned to his rohe after a series of failed business ventures, she’s the well-intentioned teina who is trying desperately to hold her whānau together as their ancestral claims are put under the microscope. Ngā Rorirori delves into the duo’s ethically dubious attempts to assert their ancestral rights and is quite unlike anything you’ve seen on stage before.

This new work from Tawata Productions is written and directed by co-founder Hone Kouka MNZM (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Kahungunu) – one of Aotearoa’s leading Māori writers, producers and directors. Kouka made history at 19 when he became the youngest-ever winner of the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award and hasn’t stopped contributing to theatre in Aotearoa since. His works have been produced in such far-flung locales as South Africa, Britain, Hawai’i, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Caledonia, as well as throughout Aotearoa. In 2004, Hone co-founded the production company, Tawata Productions, focusing on the development and presentation of new theatre by Māori and Pasifika artists. Kouka’s contribution to the Māori Performing Arts was recognised in 2009 when he became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Contemporary Māori Theatre.

Reflecting on the upcoming premiere of his new work, Kouka comments that,
“It’s not often I get to be creative – and so when I put my hand to it – I want to challenge myself as an artist. Ngā Rorirori is a work that is a culmination of three art forms that intrigue me – dance, farce and theatre. I’m excited to vibe out and create with young artists on the rehearsal room floor. I want to make something that I’ve never seen before in Aotearoa.”

Joining Kouka in the rehearsal room to bring this work to life is a multi-talented cast, including Regan Taylor, (Mahana, Home By Christmas, Ahikaroa) who has previously featured in the Auckland Arts Festival and NZ Festival seasons of Kouka’s bruising drama Bless The Child and is known for his stage and screen performances with The Māori Sidesteps. It takes two casts to tell the story of Ngā Rorirori, with the audio performance featuring Regan alongside Matariki Whatarau (Modern Māori Quartet), Shania Bailey-Edmonds (Neke, Bless The Child) and newcomers Rongopai Tickell (Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School), Nomuna Amarbat (Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School) and Hahna Nicholls (New Zealand School of Dance).

Ngā Rorirori is everything that Wellington theatre lovers have been waiting for, playing for a strictly limited season from June 18 – 25.

Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011
18 – 25 June 2022
Preview 17 June
Fri & Sat, 8pm
Sun, 4pm
Tue – Thur, 6.30pm
Tickets $15 – $45*
Earlybird pricing available until 10 May

Live Performance
Regan Taylor:  Pillow Rorirori
Mycah Keall:  Manuela Rorirori
Sefa Tunupopo:  Rere Ahuahu
Nomuna Amarbat:  Stacey Li Paul
Hahna Nichols:  R. A. (Ripeka) Goldsmithworthy

Vocal Performance
Regan Taylor:  Pillow Rorirori
Rongopai Tickell:  Manuela Rorirori
Matariki Whatarau:  Rere Ahuahu
Nomuna Amarbat:  Stacey Li Paul
Shania Bailey-Edmonds:  R. A. (Ripeka) Goldsmithworthy

Dawn Cheong:  Female Swing
Braedyn Togi:  Male Swing

Creative Company

Hōhepa Waitoa:  Translations, Te Reo Māori
Sheree Waitoa:  Composition, Karanga

Natasha James:  Lighting Designer
Michael Lyell :  Lighting Operator
Mark McEntyre:  Set Designer

Danny Caldwell:  Set Builder
Giovanni Maule:  Building Assistant
Nina Kaiwai:  Set Finisher / Set & Prop Design Assist
Anaru Dalziel:  Audio Engineer & Post Production Audio
Ben Horton:  Composition Mastering
Sopheak Seng:  Costume Designer / Campaign Stylist
Sheilah Horton:  Wardrobe
Maarire Brunning Kouka:  Composer
Reon Bell:  Composer & Sound Operator
Janis Cheng:  QLab Consultant

Streamliner Productions:  Audio Supplier
Grouse Lighting:  Lighting Supplier
Illumination & Optics:  Projection Supplier

Sarai Perenise-Ropeti:  Stage Manager (Rehearsal Room), Ngā Hua Toi Intern
Poe Tiare Ruhe-Tararo:  Production Intern
Amanda Joe:  Stage Manager

Luke Wilson:  Elephant Publicity
Michelle Lafferty:  Elephant Publicity
Rose Miller:  Graphic Design, Kraftwork
Dave Richards:  Campaign Photographer
ROC+ Photography:  Production Photographer

Jamie McCaskill:  Circa Theatre Council
Fay Van Der Meulen:  Box Office, Circa Theatre
Georgia Davenport:  Administrator, Circa Theatre
Shalesh Vasan:  Marketing Manager, Circa Theatre
Deb McGuire:  Venue Manager, Circa Theatre

Samoana Nokise:  Production Assistant, Tawata Productions
Fiona Wilson, Oranga Putea:  Accountant, Tawata Productions
Tanker Creative:  Website, Tawata Productions
Lisa Maule:  Production Manager
Mīria George:  Producer, Tawata Productions

Dance-theatre , Music , Theatre ,

1 hr 15 mins, no interval

More about the how than the what or why

Review by John Smythe 23rd Jun 2022

Having talked about this highly idiosyncratic production on RNZ’s Nine-to-Noon (Wednesday 22 June), I thought I might as well write it up too. Its very short season ends on Saturday and the plan is to develop it further with a view to staging a return season and maybe take it on tour.

Ngā Rorirori means The Idiots/Halfwits/Fools in Te Reo Pākehā. Written and directed by Hone Koukawith choreography by Braedyn Togi, it’s a farce that incorporates contemporary dance, hip-hop, tik-tok …

The dialogue is pre-recorded, in three out of five cases by actors other than those performing the role on stage, so the actors lip-sync while physically expressing their inner or outer feelings and thoughts. Projected surtitles translate te reo dialogue and also name the choreographic moves the characters vocalise and use as coping mechanisms or diversionary tactics amid their dialogue exchanges.

The setting is an empty wharekai on a coastal marae, splendidly realised by Mark McEntyre. There’s a double door to the outside world and two doors on either side of a wide servery hatch, so it’s well set up for the chases and hiding endemic to farce, and well spaced for the physicality which often incorporates chairs and a table.

Plot-wise, the set-up involves hopes, dreams and expectations that will all be challenged. “Today is the day” for Manuela Rorirori – she has something important to tell her bother Pillow, just back from prison. He’s a convicted fraudster with a dozen failed business ventures behind him, and he’s all pumped up because today is the day theChief Executive Officer of the Government Department of Whenua, Whakapapa and Whatever will arrive to seal the deal on returning ownership of their rohe back to their hāpu.

Apparently Pillow and Manuela are the only living descendants of theirhāpu and Pillow plans to sell it all off and become massively rich. Regan Taylor (voiced by himself) is hugely expansive as the enormously self-involved Pillow. Mycah Keall (voiced by Rongopai Tickell) counterpoints him well as the ebullient (she’s in love) but sensible and more grounded Manuela.

Nomuna Amarbat is lovelorn Stacey Li Paul (voiced by herself), suffering from a relationship break-up while attempting to film a documentary about Pillow. She brings a compelling clowning sensibility to the role, redolent of silent film cartoons, and is a delight to watch.

Manuela has a boyfriend who is on his way over but Pillow doesn’t know about him so now she wants to keep him away. But rural cellphone reception is poor so Rere Ahuahu, played by dancer Sefa Tunupopo (voiced by Matariki Whatarau), turns up anyway and is mistaken for the Chief Executive Officer by Pillow, keen to seal the deal, and Stacey, eager for a transitional relationship. A classic ‘mistaken identity’ trope.

All Manuela and Rere’s attempts to convince them otherwise are to no avail. Pillow believes what he wants to believe and, significantly, he doesn’t know te reo, so everything has to be translated for him, which makes for some very dynamic exchanges.

Dancer Hahna Nichols plays the CEO of the Department of Whenua, Whakapapa and Whatever, R. A. (Ripeka) Goldsmithworthy (voiced by Shanaia Bailey-Edmonds). Having participated in some dance sequences already, her physical skills come to the fore in a scene depicting her car breakdown in the backblocks and her struggle to get phone reception.

When Ripeka finally arrives, claiming to bethe CEO of the DWWW, she is treated as an imposter. Hone Kouka has revealed he read and watched lots of farces before writing this play and I’m guessing Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector was one of them.

As for the ending, spoiler alert, money-grubbing greed is vanquished, and justice, integrity and love (except for Stacey) win out at the end.

Individually and collectively – as choreographed by Braedyn Togi and directed by Hone Kouka, to compositions by Reon Bell (also sound operator), Maarire Brunning Kouka and Sheree Waitoa, with lighting designed by Natasha James and operated by Michael Lyell – the performances are mesmerising.

Kouka is quoted in publicity as saying, “I want to make something that I’ve never seen before in Aotearoa.” Has he succeeded? Well, while there is nothing new under the sun there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. Quite a few recent dance works have incorporated recorded voices and lip-syncing – e.g. House of Sand’s Undoing, Footnote’s Dry Spell, NZ Dance Company’s Artefact – How to Behave in a Museumbut yes, this is the first time I’ve seen farce used to dramatise a Māori land claim settlement and played out in Tik Tok style.*

At this point in its evolution, we are tuned in more to how the show is being performed than what it’s about and why. The question is, are the performance conventions there to serve the story or is the story secondary to the performance? If it’s a farce, should we expect to laugh? An audience for comedy or drama intuitively seeks recognition and empathy with the wants and needs of the characters. That’s how we gain the emotional connection that makes us gasp, laugh, cry or sigh. As it stands, however, we are studiously focused on reconciling the voices, actions and surtitles in order to interpret what is happening and why.

Commedia farce and clowning relish contact and interplay with the audience, and it’s a truism that comedy is all about timing; what Ian Mune calls ‘the moment of nothing’ and the late lamented John Clarke calls ‘the get-it moment’. But the pre-recorded dialogue works against ‘landing’ those moments and playing the laughs. It’s interesting to note that the only time our audience laughs out loud is with non-verbal gags, like Pillow’s mimed send-up of doddery old ‘Uncle Koro’ delivery of whaikōrero at the imagined pōwhiri he (Pillow) doesn’t want to bother with.

The given circumstances are there in the concept to allow comedy to flourish. Assuming audience connection and empathy can be achieved, might it be possible to re-jig the voice-overs and the physical timing to get the laughs? Or is Ngā Rorirori offering a whole new form of performance art that seeks to move beyond or even rise above all that?

In his programme note, Hone Kouka aspires to create “a fun and inventive night at the theatre. Something for people who love contemporary dance, theatre, hip hop and farce. Something my great nephews and nieces could go to also. Something for everyone, I hope.” The question remains, are those genres loved as a means to an end or an end in themselves?
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

*In 2019, Vancouver company Kidd Pivot premiered Revisor:
Choreographer Crystal Pite and theatre director
Jonathon Young revise the plot of Gogol’s The Government Inspector in a hybrid of contemporary theatre and dance. Eight dancers embody the recorded dialogue of some of Canada’s finest actors, exploring conflict, comedy and corruption in the potent relationship between language and the body.
Read Sanjoy Roy’s Guardian review of the 2020 Sadlers Wells season.


Raewyn Whyte June 24th, 2022

The Crystal Pite version of the Gogol play mentioned by John Smythe is screening on Sky Arts Danceworks series during June 2022. Difficult viewing. I found it unwatchable.

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A sleek and creative romp through a mad chase to be heard and understood

Review by Deborah Eve Rea 21st Jun 2022

Have you ever wanted to just live in the world of a play?

As if dreaming could make it possible to slip in between the lines below the inked italics of the stage directions and take a step off the edges of the set into the play’s unseen realm?

If people effortlessly conversed in tendu, kick, ball change in the regular day to day I think we’d be a lot happier.

Hone Kouka (writer/director) and Braedyn Togi (choreography) and their extensive team have created a flawless, fun and artistically beautiful production.

Brother and sister, Pillow and Manuela Rorirori (the only two members of their hapū), must impress the Government’s Chief Executive of the Department of ‘Whenua, Whakapapa and Whatever’. If they are successful at doing so, the vast coastline in their rohe reverts to their ownership.

As elder brother Pillow, Reagan Taylor is formidable. As an actor, Taylor has an unmissable signature to his artistry. Throughout his extensive stage career he has brought us full bodied, spirited characters that bubble from under his skin. As Pillow, Taylor is right in his element. Pillow is anchored yet wild, sermon-like in delivery and unrelenting in body. Attempting to net him is Mycah Keall, as Pillow’s sister Maneula (voiced by Rongopai Tickell), and Sefa Tunupopo as Manuela’s partner, Rere (voiced by Matariki Whatarau) .

The pair have an incredible connection as scene partners. They are able to stand together, holding the show in stillness to allow the audience to exhale in between the madness of the farce.

One of my favorite moments of the show is Manuela and Rere gazing into each other’s eyes, stepping toward each other then embracing their own bodies, eyes locked, looking like they dream to melt and pour themselves into the pools of each other.

Taylor and Keall also share momentous joy in connection as brother and sister, pushing, pulling, leaping, catching and a whole lot of chasing.

Nomuna Amarbat and Hahna Nichols turn themselves nearly inside out in their commitment to the roles of Stacey Li Paul (voiced by Amarbat herself) and Ripeka Goldsmithworthy (voiced by Shania Bailey-Edmonds). Both actors are paired with challenging roles which exist on the fringes of identity. Amarbat and Nichols walk the tightrope well and have a great time doing so, with their characters’ mana successfully intact.

I always appreciate a set. New Zealand’s theatre scene is so fast-turnaround and low cost, and the set is always the first to go. No set anemia here! Mark McEntyre’s wharekai set will be nostalgic to many audience members. Windows and walls create pods of playing spaces which allow entrances and exits to become scenes in their own right. McEntyre and costume designer Sopheak Seng have partnered together well, each complementing the other’s work and the work of the actors. Seng has also seen the opportunity of costume when you have an actor like Taylor who dives into the opportunity to treat costume as prop. Seng has made sure to provide Taylor with costume that he can use in his storytelling.
Side note: design is in the details – and I love the “property of” text underneath the tēpu.

There’s a lot of joy here, as there should be in any good farce. But Ngā Rorirori isn’t just any farce; it’s a sleek and creative romp through which the characters slip through the languages of Te Reo, English, Dance and Kapa Haka in a mad chase to be heard and understood. There’s kisses of Oscar Wilde and even echoes of Alan Brunton and Red Mole too (‘Embrace the individual joys of Capitalism!”). Ngā Rorirori would not be out of place at The National in London.

Tawata Productions has an immense list of whānau who have created Ngā Rorirori (approx 45 named on the programme) and the work is a testament to each and everyone one of them. I hope they’re proud.

Ngā Rorirori takes me off guard with its very limited season: from 18 – 25 June! What’s this? Only 7 performances in 8 days?! Don’t miss it. Shows like this don’t come by often.


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Inspired by silent films, light and celebratory

Review by Sarah Catherall 21st Jun 2022

In a week in which we celebrate Matariki, it’s fitting to watch the latest work of gifted Māori playwright and director, Hone Kouka. Described as part theatre, dance and cinema, Ngā Rorirori (‘the idiots’ in te reo) is unlike anything I’ve seen at Circa Theatre.

When writing it Kouka (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Kahungunu) was inspired by the silent films of the 1920s and 30s, and musicals like Singing in the Rain. The five actors act, dance and clown on stage, lip-syncing to a script which was recorded earlier in the year by another cast, reminiscent of a silent film. [More]


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