Te Papa Tongarewa, Te Marae, Cable Street, Wellington

09/03/2015 - 14/03/2015

Capital E National Arts Festival

Production Details

Taki Rua Productions

Capital E National Arts Festival 2015 features a free public performance of Taki Rua Productions’ show Ngunguru I Te Ao I Te Po on Saturday 14 March at 1pm at Te Marae, Te Papa.

In this original production, audience members will embark on an adventure into the oceanic depths, rocky shore lines and pristine beaches of the East Coast Aotearoa. This is the place where the waves ceaselessly roll in and the tides ebb and flow to the rhythm of the moon. Here in the heart of Te Moananui a Kiwa meet five mischievous and fun creatures as they reveal the beauty of their watery home.

Taki Rua Productions presents the story of the children of Tangaroa as they battle a terrifying oil slick. With a little help from Tangaroa’s mighty current and the legendary taniwha, Kai Whare, will they be saved?

Festival Producer Melanie Hamilton says, “Ngunguru I Te Ao I Te Po is a high energy, physical performance where waiata and dance meet in a unique and humorous theatre experience that celebrates Te Ao Māori.”

For 27 years Taki Rua Productions has been an arts industry leader – a creative rule breaker, unpredictable and unconventional, challenging and evolving the definition of Māori theatre. Taki Rua Productions connects New Zealand heritage, past and present and ensure the foundation for Māori voices to be heard world wide. Taki Rua is a call to audiences and artists to celebrate and share stories that define and challenge the essence and perceptions of who we are as the indigenous culture of Aotearoa.

Te Marae, Te Papa
Education Junior Week performances, 9 – 13 March
Public performance, 14 March
To book tickets and view the full Festival programme visit

Kamaia Takuira-Mita 
Nepia Takuira-Mita 
Te Arahi Easton 

Translator Materoa Haenga  
Production Manager Helena Coulton  
Set, Props & Costume Designer Meg Rollandi  
Sound Designer Maaka McGregor
Waita Writer Andre Ngāpo 

Theatre , Theatre Marae , Te Ao Māori ,

Restoring the balance

Review by John Smythe 11th Mar 2015

The sea of small children on the floor between us adults on seats and the low-rise stage at Te Papa’s marae is especially ideal for this play, about creatures of the sea. 

Having toured Aotearoa last year for Taki Rua’s Te Reo Māori Season, NGUNGURU I Te Ao I Te Po by Noa Campbell now plays as part of this year’s Capital E National Arts Festival, in a mix of te reo and English. Quite possibly I have less reo than these 4 to 8 year-olds, although I have read the media release. I assume the children have been prepared by their teachers. If I am ‘at sea’ then, when it comes to understanding the finer points of the story – and I am – others will doubtless be in the same position.

I try to translate the title from my limited understanding of te reo. Ngunguru means grunt, rumble, groan and can be a noun or verb. Te ao is the world or brightness; te po is the underworld or darkness. This tale is about how a giant oil slick disrupts the peaceful lives of sea creatures in the heart of Te Moananui a Kiwa (the large open ocean). So I see it as a darkness from underground, brought to the surface by humans, invading the light of the world. But it’s actually simpler than that (see below).*

Water is evoked by the clever use of an overhead projector (operated by Acushla Tara-Sutton), throwing its image onto a scrim backdrop. But the music sounds more Indian than Māori. It turns out the conch shell an actor blows on comes from the Indian Ocean. Kamaia Takuira-Mita personifies the Conch with some fluid Indian dancing: the sea is a great connector.  

Pū the Seal (Nepia Takuira-Mita) loves his surfing and is joined by the more timid Penguin, Kahurangi (Kamaia Takuira-Mita), getting away from her hoha brothers. Yes, they are brother and sister in real life, and their playful interactions are spot-on for the story.

Further out in the deep they encounter Tā the Whale (Arahi Easton), majestic and lithe – and clad in a silver-gray academic gown, which implies great wisdom. The costumes designed by Meg Rollandi suggest the creatures splendidly.

Of course Kahurangi teases Pū about his smell and Pū teases her about her reluctance to get stuck into surfing. But it is Manu the Bird and all-seeing poet (Nepia) who scares her with stories about the taniwha, Kai Whare, who inhabits this ocean. Is he that rock or was that another one? Is he the cause of the scary rumble? Is that creeping darkness something to do with Kai Whare? Maaka McGregor’s sound design balances the scariness with a sense of the joy and balance in nature.

Pū and Kahurangi try to get back to their carefree lifestyles with song and dance; Kahu gets a great drumming sound out of her poi. But the oil slick makes them retreat to a cave.

In fear of Kai Whare (a wonderfully agile Arahi Easton), Kahurangi asks the kids to call out “Taniwha!” whenever they see it – which of course they do with great gusto. But it turns out Kai Whare is not a monster to be feared but a kaitiaki (guardian).

The proverbial day is saved by embracing the principles of tuakana-teina (the buddy system), kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and whanaungatanga (kinship), and by Kai Whare employing Tangaroa’s strong current to disperse the slick. The natural balance is restored.

A relaxed Q&A with the cast afterwards allows the children and teachers to clarify their understanding and further satisfy their curiosity.

In a world still dominated by stories from elsewhere, and with so much homegrown children’s theatre being based on European folk tales (albeit Kiwi-fied), Taki Rua Production’s commitment to addressing universal, local, timeless and contemporary issues by revitalising Māori myth and legend through highly entertaining theatre is to be both applauded and cherished.

Capital E National Arts Festival 2015 features a free public performance of Taki Rua Productions’ show Ngunguru I Te Ao I Te Po on Saturday 14 March at 1pm at Te Marae, Te Papa. 
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*Later I contact Noa Campbell for clarification of the title and she reveals that Ngunguru I te Ao I te Po is taken from a tau parapara from the north. It refers to the ebb and flow of the sea, day into night, night into day, and its never ending continuity… “No we are not talking about the darkness of the underground invading the light world.” So much for my little learning, then. But I’ve left my attempt at interpretation above because I won’t be alone in having a crack at it from a ‘reo-lite’ position.

Normally Theatreview would get someone fluent in te reo to review such work but none were available during the day, so I rationalised there would be value in getting the perspective of someone in a similar position to the schools audience (whose teachers may also refer to the online information at ).


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