NOT IN OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD

Studio 77, Victoria University, 77 Fairlie Tce, Kelburn, Wellington

01/03/2014 - 01/03/2014

BATS Theatre, Wellington

09/06/2015 - 13/06/2015

Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

26/02/2016 - 28/02/2016

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

02/03/2016 - 04/03/2016

Scottish Hall, 112 Esk Street, Invercargill

08/09/2016 - 10/09/2016

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

13/09/2016 - 17/09/2016

Court Theatre Pub Charity Studio, Christchurch

20/09/2016 - 24/09/2016

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

10/06/2017 - 24/06/2017

Putahi Festival 2014

Ahi Kaa Festival 2015

Auckland Arts Festival 2016

New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2016

Production Details


Jamie McCaskill – Writer/Director

Tikapa Productions


Not in our Neighbourhood is a one-person play, starring Kali Kopae, that follows the lives of Sasha Miller, Cat Mihinui and Teresa Cummings: Three individuals with very different backgrounds living together at the Women’s Refuge safe house. Maisey Mata, a filmmaker, has been invited to Hauraki Women’s Refuge to follow some of their clients in a bid to raise awareness about domestic violence. On her journey she discovers that domestic violence comes in all different shapes and sizes and that situations are more complicated than she first thought.

Not in our Neighbourhood takes a close look behind the mask of domestic violence – the despair, the misguided loyalties, the pain, the hopelessness and hope.

Not in Our Neighbourhood is a flexible touring show with minimal set and stage design that can be performed in theatres, halls and clubs.

Not in Our Neighbourhood
Studio 77, Victoria University
March 1st – 4pm
Book at Circa Theatre: circa@circa.co.nz ; 8017992

2015 

Sharing a stunning series of stories about domestic violence against women.

Tikapa Productions presents a new staged production of Not in our Neighbourhood part of the Ahi Kaa Festival during Matariki- the Māori new year.  A series of four women’s stories unravel in their experiences of domestic violence.

Season:  9 – 13 June 2015
Time:  6.30PM
Ticket Prices:  $18 full ticket price  |  $14 concession  |  $13 groups of 6+
Venue:  BATS Theatre  |  1 Kent Terrace  |  Wellington
Bookings:  04 802 4175  |  book@bats.co.nz  |  bats.co.nz

2016

**Winner of the ‘Best Actress Award’ (Kali Kopae) and ‘Outstanding New Zealand Play Award’, Wellington Theatre Awards 2015**

NZ Festival 2016
Hannah Playhouse
Friday 26 Feb – Sunday 28 Feb
GA
$49.00
http://www.festival.co.nz/2016/events/not-our-neighbourhood/

Auckland Arts Festival 2016
Q Theatre Loft
Wed 2 March, 6:30pm
Thu 3 March, 8:00pm
Fri 4 March, 6:30pm
65mins no interval
Price $43 – $49
You can also experience this at Te Oro, Glen Innes
http://www.aucklandfestival.co.nz/events/not-in-our-neighbourhood-at-q-loft/

South Island, 2016

Not In Our Neighbourhood
Performed by Kali Kopae and Peter Hambleton
Presented by Tikapa Productions in partnership with Taki Rua, The Court Theatre and Fortune Theatre

INVERCARGILL: Scottish Hall (112 Esk St) | 8-10 September 6pm & 8pm | Book at Ticketdirect 0800 224 224 www.ticketdirect.co.nz

DUNEDIN: Fortune Theatre | 13-17 September 7pm, September 17 2pm matinee | Book at Fortune Theatre (03) 477-8323 www.fortunetheatre.co.nz

CHRISTCHURCH: Pub Charity Studio, The Court Theatre | 20-24 September 2016, 7pm, September 24 2pm matinee | Book at The Court Theatre (03) 963-0870 www.courttheatre.org.nz

2017

Centrepoint Theatre, Palmerston North
10 – 24 June 2017
Wednesday / 6.30pm
Thursday – Saturday / 8pm
Sunday / 5pm
Post-Show Q+A: Wednesday 14 June
TICKETS
Adult / Full $40; Earlybird $32
Group (6+) / Full $36; Earlybird $30
Concession* / Full $32; Earlybird $26
Student / Full $20; Earlybird $16
*Seniors (60+), under-30s, and Community Services Card holders. Valid I.D. is required.

Tikapa Productions – Producers
Currently based in Thames, Tikapa Productions was formed in 2010 to produce new maori based performing arts work and mentor upcoming performing artists. They are currently developing a musical stage show in the local community of Thames combining community members with professional artists using the whenua as inspiration.

Jamie McCaskill – Writer/Director
Ngati Tamatera/Ngati Rangi
Jamie graduated from UCOL Theatre School in 2000 and has been working in the industry since then performing in many plays around the country and internationally. Also a writer Jamie wrote his first play Wassup Bro? in 2003 where he picked up the award for Best New Talent at the Wellington Fringe Festival. Since then he has written 6 plays, which have all enjoyed successful tours. His most recent play Manawa is currently being developed in to a screenplay and Jamie was the recipient of the Bruce Mason Award in 2013. Also a musician Jamie plays with his local band Boom City.

Kali Kopae – Actor
Te Arawa/Ngati Pukeko
Kali graduated from the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art on 2005. Since graduatin Kali has enjoyed an exciting career in theatre and music. A year out of drama school Kali was offered a 6 month acting internship with Downstage Theatre. During this period she got a taste and drive for professional theatre. From this went on to perform in various theatre shows with Tawata Productions, Centrepoint Theatre, Circa theatre, Capital E and is a member of the iconic girl group The Beatgirls. In 2008 Kali was involved in creating He Reo Aroha with Tawata Productions that showcases her original music. Most recently she was on stage at Q Theatre in Hone Kouka’s Tu.

Jennifer Lal – Lighting design
Jen is a lighting extraordinaire and has been lighting theatre at the highest level for 20 years.  Most recently lighting shows for Silo and Circa Theatre. Jen has won multiple Chapmann Trip awards for top lighting designer and has been at the top of her game for the last 10 years being in hot demand in Auckland and Wellington as well as tutoring her skills at Toi Whakaari and various institutions around the country. Jen brings a whole lot of experience to this project and will fill the show with the exact amount of atmosphere it needs.

Te Whāriki Manawahine O Hauraki
(Hauraki Women’s Refuge)
Te Whāriki provides services to whanau throughout hauraki. Their focus is “Keeping Whanau Safe in Hauraki” Working with Tikapa Productions provides them with the opportunity to extend their kaupapa, to include and tautoko Hauraki talent and crafts people so they can creatively address whanau violence from a Hauraki Maori context.


Performed by Kali Kopae
Lighting design by Jennifer Lal


Theatre , Solo ,


1hr

Devastating yet wanted more

Review by Alexandra Bellad-Ellis 12th Jun 2017

Maisey Mata is a filmmaker who has been invited by the Hauraki Women’s Refuge, Te Whāriki Manawahine O Hauraki, to film in The Safehouse. Here women who have been victims of violence can live in safety while they get help to rebuild themselves and their lives.

At The Safehouse Maisey meets Cat, Sasha and Theresa, three women from different backgrounds, who want to tell her their stories to raise awareness about domestic violence. Jamie McCaskill’s Not In Our Neighbourhood opens with Maisey doing her final piece to camera, introducing her documentary to the audience who are about to watch it. Then we journey to The Safehouse where we meet the women, who slowly let us into their lives to see the trauma that they suffer, a system that feels like it is failing them, and the devastating effect violence has on them and their families.

Kali Kopae does an amazing job of giving each character their own unique personality; she also manages the tricky job of switching between characters on stage. There is no change in costume or lighting, and only the occasional music prompt, so the actress manages this with acting alone. She even manages to have conversations between characters, leading the audience by the hand through the quick changes in the story. The world she creates is all-encompassing, and when there is a brief cameo by a man there is a tangible change in the feeling in the theatre.

The play is set in the transverse with the audience on opposite sides of the stage. This can lead to difficulties with ‘seeing all the action’ as characters move through the play. But the directing (Jamie McCaskill) ensures each part of the audience is faced in turn, with no one missing any of the action. The stage set is minimal and the lighting is lovely (design: Jennifer Lal).

While the play deals with violence and the terrible cost it takes on women, I still want the play to last longer, to find out what is next for the women we have met.

Not in our Neighborhood lasts about an hour and is on at Centrepoint till the 24th of June; check the Centrepoint website for ticket details and to book. 

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The importance of this work cannot be overstated

Review by Ruth Agnew 21st Sep 2016

Theatre can be a powerful tool of social change, and Tikapa Productions’ Not In Our Neighbourhood (presented in partnership with Taki Rua productions) is an outstanding example of this. Jamie McCaskill has turned his experience working at the Hauraki Women’s Refuge (Te Whariki Manawahine O Hauraki) into a play that has the potential to alter the way New Zealanders view domestic violence.

Maisie Mata is making a documentary about the women residing at the Hauraki Women’s Refuge safe house. This provides the structure to present the stories of three women who are trying to escape domestic violence situations. Kali Kopae ably portrays all the female characters.

In addition to the sweet, slightly naïve seeming Maisie, Kopae is Moira, a key staff member at the refuge, and the three residents: loud, brash Sasha, a young woman whose life story is so awful it beggars belief; Cat, a timid, slow moving middle aged Māori mother; and Theresa, who is finally leaving her businessman husband of 35 years, after decades of abuse.

Kopae’s mastery of technique means that each character is finely crafted, with convincing vocal changes and physicality. The detailed manifestation of each of the women is so thorough that it is clear which character Kopae is portraying just by observing the way she holds her mouth, from slack jawed Sasha to tight lipped Theresa.  

This is not quite a one woman play. Peter Hambleton plays David, the highly respected, well-to-do husband of Theresa, in the only two person scene in the play. When David explodes in rage at Moira’s refusal to give him access to his wife, a palpable wave of tension ripples through the audience. My male companion later tells me he had to fight the urge to jump up to protect Moira. This is testament to the conviction of Kopae and Hambleton’s performances, which have the power to elicit a physical response as well as an emotional one. 

When the play ends, the audience rises in a well-deserved standing ovation. I feel there is a stronger force lifting us from our seats than simply wanting to honour Kopae’s stellar performance. This work is intended to increase awareness of domestic violence, and to show the way it pervades all facets of society. It truly feels as though this Christchurch audience is rising up against domestic violence.

McCaskill has given strength to his message by presenting it in a play that will resonate with anyone, as we can all see at least part of ourselves mirrored onstage. By challenging stereotypes and breaking down the prejudices surrounding this issue, this mighty Tikapa/Taki Rua team is making it harder for us to ignore what is happening in our neighbourhood.

The importance of this work cannot be overstated. By raising awareness and educating the community about the reality of domestic violence, lives could be changed, improved or even saved. 

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Electrifying exposition of abuse

Review by Helen Watson White 14th Sep 2016

Last night’s One News revealed our national figures for domestic-violence cases have reached 110,000 a year.

Not In Our Neighbourhood, a short, razor-sharp play touring the country, addresses the abuse issue with all the forces available in a theatre, while leaving the audience feeling they’ve also been entertained.

Written and directed by Jamie McCaskill, this ”staged documentary” is much more moving than it sounds. [More

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Controlled, exquisite, exhilarating performance of authentic, stylish, humorous play

Review by Kathryn van Beek 14th Sep 2016

One in three women in New Zealand experience physical and / or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime. It’s not ok. But is it something you really want to see a play about? If you’d like to experience chic, award-winning theatre that’s a laugh or a gasp a minute, then the answer is yes.

After volunteering with the Hauraki Women’s Refuge, writer and director Jamie McCaskill was asked to create a play about domestic violence that would leave audiences “informed, challenged and moved”. That’s no small task but McCaskill has absolutely fulfilled the brief. Not in Our Neighbourhood is an authentic, stylish and even humorous insight into the lives of women living in a safe house.

We’re introduced to a spicy hot pot of characters: three different women seeking refuge, plus the down-to-earth house manager, Moira, who cares for them. Feisty Sasha, quiet Cat and elegant Teresa have different backgrounds but one thing in common – the need to escape their violent pasts.

They tell their stories to documentary film maker Maisey, and we follow them through court appearances, WINZ appointments and society events.

McCaskill has created these eclectic, relatable women, but they are given life by the extraordinary Kali Kopae, who plays all of them. Kopae is like a graceful tornado as she twists and turns from broken, sexy, tyrannical, nurturing and powerful. At times her performance is like dance or like song. Watching Kopae in action is the theatrical equivalent of watching an Olympic gymnastics routine: controlled, exquisite, exhilarating. 

The atmosphere is equally poetic, with the intimate traverse stage and the soft glow of lamplight.

Into this feminine, almost sensuous world, the appearance of a physically imposing male character (played by Peter Hambleton) is like glass shattering. Suddenly the cocooned, protected safe house is under threat.

To my taste the conceit of the documentary is superfluous, and the play would flow just as well without it. The glue that holds the story together isn’t Maisey, it’s ‘smile in the face of adversity’ Moira, who understands these women in a way that the rest of society often doesn’t. And although the stories of the women unfold and develop in unexpected and interesting ways, I would have liked to have seen slightly stronger cathartic moments for them.

These are small quibbles in the face of a beautiful production. Not in our Neighbourhood is an important Kiwi play about an important Kiwi topic. It’s also fantastic theatre.

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Stories of refuge women heard loud and clear

Review by Sam Brooks 07th Mar 2016

We don’t talk about domestic violence enough. We don’t talk about the abusers, we don’t talk about the victims and we don’t talk about the people who ask for help and what that process is.

Not In Our Neighbourhood is talking about domestic violence, and it is begging us to talk about it too. [More

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Brave Faces

Review by Nathan Joe 04th Mar 2016

How do you approach an important subject such as domestic violence in a theatrically engaging manner without exploiting it? The most obvious thing would be to present it as truthfully as possible. But there’s a tendency for storytellers to take on causes that aren’t their own and attempt to suggest they know better. For the privileged to impose their own ideas and prejudices onto minorities. The result is usually highly dissonant work that harms the very cause it seeks to support. Real people’s stories are inadvertently reduced to after school specials.

Framed as a documentary-within-a-play, Not in our Neighbourhood introduces us to the world of four women at a women’s refuge through the eyes of filmmaker Maisey. And it’s their stories that take centre stage. There’s Moira, who runs the refuge and looks after the clients, suggesting a chipper nature which belies her actual strength; Cat, a quiet and broken individual burdened with a heavy past; Sasha, the bold and brash one, who always speaks her mind; and Teresa, the wife of an important public figure, whose sense of propriety has kept her bottled up for decades. Though painted in somewhat broad strokes, each one is given a distinctive voice by writer and director Jamie McCaskill, who displays an impressive ear for realistic dialogue. [More]

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A vitally essential work but more pretty than gritty

Review by Dione Joseph 03rd Mar 2016

Written and directed by Jamie McCaskill, Not in our Neighbourhood is a moving social commentary on the ongoing systemic violence in our society. Packed into an hour long production, powerhouse performer Kali Kopae takes us into the lives of three women who have sought shelter at their local refuge and, drawing upon their stories, offers quintessential snapshots of their varied experiences.

McCaskill’s script does well in exploring the ramifications of physical violence and its associated traumas and although not as robust as it could be it also makes a commendable attempt to unwrap the multifaceted ways in which this vulnerability is exploited by those individuals and institutions with power.

The premise is that a young filmmaker named Maisey decides to do a documentary on two women who are currently clients at the refuge. The Safehouse is run by a brash but pragmatic woman named Moira who introduces her new guest to Sasha, a loud potty mouthed mother-of-five who revolts against the system; and Cat, a quiet older woman who has been sexually assaulted by a family member. Both have volunteered to be part of the project. A third woman, Teresa, is the wife of a well-known businessman and has suffered all forms of abuse in silence for close to thirty years. After a recent incident she too finds her way to the Safehouse.

Kopae plays all five women, each with their own distinct personality, rhythm and physicality. A talented performer, she and McCaskill have created a work that is slick, polished and fine-tuned – yet almost to the point that it loses a sense of genuine empathy with its characters. A strain of quasi-realism holds the drama on the brink of the confessional narrative and then plunges into a series of clichéd drama school techniques to show change of character and location. In some ways these little flourishes and occasional over dramatisation detract rather than add value to the work, and over the course of the hour do little to delve into the complexities of each scenario.

Framing the stories as a documentary also seems to do little more than bookend the production – there is little we are shown (or told) about Maisey’s involvement or growth or indeed even her role other than that of a voyeur during her time spent at the refuge – and we know that simply cannot be the case. Too many little touches make this a pretty rather than a gritty and sophisticated package.

The stadium seating at Q Loft certainly has come back into favour and Jennifer Lal’s lighting design is delicate and evocative but if we are blurring boundaries and worlds where we have a tripod and no camera and an invisible assault that is visually powerful, why then is there an extra male actor who arrives midway to perform the very predictable husband-in-denial-I-was-also-abused character?

The content is unequivocally important – these conversations addressing violence need to take place and together McCaskill and Kopae have made efforts to create visibility and discourse on this often marginalised subject. But the form and presentation of this material also needs to interrogate the quiet violence that is taking place all around us; acts of abuse that are ignored, unaccepted and unexpected – not just the clichés or the familiar tropes that are regurgitated.

Kopae is worth seeing in action and it is a vitally essential work that deserves ongoing support and development – it’s just not quite there yet. 

Comments

Dione Joseph March 4th, 2016

Thank you for your comments Denise.

As you rightly indicate a reviewer's perspective is an individual one. It neither seeks to validate nor legitimise the worthiness of any particular subject but rather contribute to a healthy and constructive conversation on a production, it's values as work of theatre and it's role within the larger socio-culural fabric of our society.

I am strongly committed to the notion that the bigger the circle, the better the conversation and different reviewers have different opinions. While I have highlighted the merits of the work in my review I do believe this work has potential to become better and I hope that the makers will find my thoughts useful as have many others who have received and recognised that critical feedback is based on strengthing our industry. In this way we can collectively develop the form and style in which we tell stories that deserve to be told, voices that need to be heard and people who need to be made visible.

As a reviewer and practicing dramaturge I also have a responsibility to ensuring that we as New Zealanders continually strive to hone and develop our stories because our work deserves to grow, flex and expand in unexpected and innovative ways.

Best

Dione

Denise Messiter March 4th, 2016

Not in Our Neighbourhood was written to give the uninformed public some insight into family violence. The Governance Committee of Te Whariki Manawahine O Hauraki wanted to use drama to call our communities to action in a non-threatening informative and thought provoking way.  They agreed theatre was the forum because it pushes through cultural, economic and political boundaries taking society to the edge of being uncomfortable with its own realities and denials – hence the husband and I was also abused character – which really did happen at Te Whariki.  Often it’s the predictable in the near surreal moments that can shatter denial. 

Maisey’s story was deliberately inconsequential.  She was the means to channel each of the characters with their respective involved complexities and vulnerabilities, including Moira’s.  This documentary drama gives the audience the space to take themselves to places where they may have never been. Good writing (as we know) leads the audience to teeter on the horizon’s brink drawing on their own stories, recollections and imaginings to connect with the story and characters playing out in front of them. 

Not in Our Neighbourhood is a snapshot of the unseen, quiet, unaccepted and unexpected violence experienced by three women who have endured family violence, which as we must surely agree is unacceptable and happens for many when it is least expected.  Again the point of this documentary drama was to expose family violence without using violence – interrogation in the context of family violence has often been part of the experience at infinitum – where have you been? Who have you been with?  Who did you talk to?  What did you talk to him for?  How come you were late? Who did you walk home with? What did you spend all the money on? Why are you wearing that stink dress?

Te Whariki’s brief to McCaskill was: no physical violence; touch on the emotional, spiritual and cultural complexities that permeate family violence and weave women’s lives together when they reside at refuge; call the audience to action while leaving them with hope.  Not in Our Neighbourhood is testimony to a skillful intertwining of these intricacies and without a doubt you know the audience gets it as silent tears flow and snivels are heard.     

Kopae also worked at Te Whariki in the safe house. The women would share their stories with her because they could and chose to. This connection empowers her performance and showers the audience with an emotive atmosphere of vibrant, energetic, respectful and delicate vulnerability.  

Here’s the cruncher.  The real test of Not in our Neighbourhood’s relevance and dare I say it reverence, doesn’t come from reviewers, it comes from the women themselves who knew the play was being written and who gave permission for their characters to be written into it.   These women were the first audience.  The set was just as every audience since has seen it.  The play ends and in the debrief the women characterized gave permission for their stories as told in this piece of documentary theater to be opened to the public.  They chorused “tell everyone maybe it will help save someone’s life.”  So from that point of view it’s a 65 minute pithy narrative about the key messages in their stories. Let’s acknowledge the courage of these women to trust McCaskill and Kopae would continue to replay their stories with the same integrity they witnessed as the first audience.  Perhaps those who awarded Kali Kopae Actress of the Year 2015 for Not in Our Neighbourhood, and bestowed it Outstanding New, New Zealand Play saw through the quasi-realisms, the familiar tropes, cliché’s and implied voyuerism and saw instead a powerful, moving, informed and current account of family violence in a New Zealand context.

Denise Messiter

Denise was the Managing Chairperson of Te Whariki Manawahine O Hauraki when Jamie and Kali were employed there and were developing Not in Our Neighbourhood and she also helped with creating it.  

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Insightful

Review by Maraea Rakuraku 27th Feb 2016

There is a responsibility that comes from telling uncomfortable stories that reflect the truth of what is often glossed over. Much has been researched, analysed, evaluated and opined about the state of violence in this country and in particular (if the media is to be believed), the overrepresentation of Māori, and acts of violence. To my shame my own prejudices take a hit. That’s good. That’s the power of effective story telling.  

Not in Our Neighbourhood is the first time I personally have seen a New Zealand play that just deals with the telling of that, without any sensationalist, moralistic, judgment loaded message. 

The backstory of how Not in Our Neighbourhood came about has been well documented. Writer Jamie McCaskill and performer Kali Kopae moved to Thames (where Jamie is from) for a period of time (they reside in Wellington now) and Jamie took up a cultural residency at the Te Whariki Manawahine o Hauraki Womens Refuge. It’s his experiences there that resulted in Not in our Neighbourhood.

Writing about a community that you whakapapa to, about issues that impact that community while you live within it, takes courage. Giving space to stories and voices rarely if ever heard, is what I think is one of the singularly most important thing we facilitate as writers. That then has a flow on effect for those recognising their own stories. It’s transformative. It has the potential to hook into the theatre medium an audience that doesn’t ever see itself there. Potentially.

But Not in Our Neighbourhood is even bigger than this initial analysis. It looks at violence in all its facets. So while the setting in and around a Women’s Refuge suggests domesticated partner violence, there is as equally the violence inflicted upon our most vulnerable, through the many state agencies they encounter. How can anyone not be angry and feel disempowered when your voice is silenced or there is a misinterpretation of your behaviour within polite society? How would you respond if you were trying your best, feeling totally disempowered and you were meeting head-on institutionalised process and all its accompanying prejudice?

As one of the characters says after one particular incident, “People like that, got it in for normal people like us.” The sub-text is: “Your normal is my not normal.” In fact violence normalised is the normal because as Not in Our Neighbourhood unfolds,the violence the three main characters have encountered is the great equaliser, of class, economic and social standing. As one of the characters says: “Here’s me thinking only poor people get the bash.” 

It’s the first time I have seen the Hannah Playhouse set in traverse. Twenty or so lamps are scattered around the edge of a raised stage.  Four chairs are set in pairs facing each other at each end and there is space between. It gives the idea that this is a conversation and I guess it is, as the story unfolds. Though it does have a fly-on-the-wall aspect to it too. 

Not in Our Neighbourhood is helmed and energised by Kali Kopae.  It’s a great skill to sustain the momentum when you have no-one to respond to or bounce off.  I am always in awe of a performer who is able to maintain energy and pace in a solo performance.  Who do you draw energy from and play too when it’s just yourself?  

Kopae cut her teeth in the two hander He Reo Aroha (Miria George and Jamie McCaskill) and having only seen her in ensemble since, it’s evident she has matured as a performer. There is a professionalism now, where the edges have been more polished. Personally, I adore the raw, but when all eyes are on you for over an hour, you want to not miss a beat. It is admirable. Her ability to encompass the emotion of each character is impressive. That’s some A-grade transitioning.

Her performance is really what holds this all together. The language of some of the characters in some parts sounds similar but the accents and Kopae’s delivery kept me involved. I recognise, know, can relate to and become invested in these wāhine and their stories.

The music aids the characterisation in a way, though in some parts I find it distracting especially when Kopae is talking on the opposite side to where I am seated.  The use of music means that it is a little difficult to hear at times what is being said.  I’m not sure the music has the emotional heft to guide me.

However, in saying that, when a piano piece plays associated with of the characters in particular, I do feel moved. That is pretty early on in the work before I’ve had time to settle into the play’s rhythm. At another point when a character dances, that feeling of freedom she is feeling, and then of the heightened ever present and lurking danger, is also aided by the music.

I find myself for the first time understanding that yes, a refuge is a place of refuge but what I wasn’t really sensitive too, is that it’s also place of healing. That, for the wāhine in having a space to tell your story matter-of-factly with minimal judgment, provides a space of healing that you receive not only from the space itself but, each other. Not in our Neighbourhood gives me insight into how that power cannot be underestimated.

However, I do come away from Not In Our Neighbourhood feeling its true power as an important New Zealand theatre work has not been fully realised.  I think the choice of presenting this as a mock-documentary brings a degree of voyeurism that could have been avoided.  I wonder if traumatised women housed in a refuge would talk this freely to a stranger whose character, Maisey, remains largely undeveloped as anything other than a device.  Because even if that is buffeted by someone they trust (Teresa) it can take a lot for traumatised to open up. I’d be more likely to believe this happened, had we been shown the development of these relationships.  Refuges are highly confidential safe houses. The security and secrecy around them is immense.  When either is broken the consequences can be life threatening.

My knowing of this ups-the-ante following the entry of Jed Brophy’s character. His presence all shiny, taut and bright, brings the only significant tension that amps up an otherwise fly-on-a-wall experience. It’s about here I start to experience fear for the characters I’ve come to care for.  Despite this successfully dramatic moment, the play hits and then misses or somehow avoids following through on this momentum.  It dissipates in a way that leaves me wanting more.  An opportunity is somehow missed for further powerful development. 

This is even further undermined by the cut away from the women themselves to Maisey the unseen film-maker, who then moralises in a way about violence being everyone’s business that comes across as almost trite and naïve in contrast to the richness and nuance of the women’s stories.  An audience rarely likes to be told how to respond or what to think.  This could be completely avoided.  

One of the strengths of the play is the quirkiness of the characters and their humour. There’s an authenticity to the humour that is reflective of each character. The female voice is evident and that’s not even because Kopae is the performer. There is something very, very female about it. That’s down to McCaskill’s observations and storytelling skill.

It is so neat to see a work in Wellington that is not set in a major city. There is a regionality that rings true in Not in in our Neighbourhood and I love it. The accents, the correct pronunciation of Māori place names, the inner regional jokes.

I recognise the characters and become absolutely invested in them, one more so than the others. So much so, I almost don’t believe something she does. However, by this stage and having been guided through the work because just like the role she undertakes at the refuge we are being guided through this world by the Refuge Co-ordinator, Teresa, I am willing to accept this is something that could happen.  

I have to admit that the association that is connected to Mauri is not strongly or persuasively made.  It pops into the dialogue as a seminal comment without any forewarning or foreshadowing.  If that’s to resonate deeper it needs to be more integral throughout the work so that it doesn’t hit and miss.  Likewise when the sole Māori character (who I love) says something to the effect that, “my family were rangatira here”.  Again it’s a Noble Savage trope that we have become so familiar with in theatre and film that it really needs to be developed in a more sophisticated way, so that it doesn’t seem gratuitous.   

As I said earlier, it takes courage to bring to our attention what can tend to be hidden and I applaud wholeheartedly Tikapa Productions. However, I most sincerely believe that with further development, I have no doubt Not in Our Neighbourhood will reflect in equal parts the power that its performer brings to it. 

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A powerful take on domestic violence

Review by Laurie Atkinson 12th Jun 2015

Over the years I have seen three or four plays designed to promote awareness of the blight that disfigures our society: domestic violence against women.

None that I can remember has been quite as effective theatrically as Jamie McCaskill’s Not in Our Neighbourhood. There is truthfulness in the way this hour-long play unfolds, with its occasional touches of humour in the characterisations, while the violence presented is verbal violence in one short, intensely dramatic and powerfully performed scene by Paul McLaughlin.

It takes place in the Hauraki Women’s Refuge where Maisey Mata, a film-maker has been invited to make a documentary in a bid to raise awareness. We meet the kindly and long suffering staff and three women finding a temporary haven in the safety of the Refuge.  http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/69226429/not-in-our-neighbourhood-is-a-powerful-take-on-domestic-violence

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Powerful and effective theatre for social change

Review by Fiona McNamara 10th Jun 2015

Trigger warning for domestic violence and sexual violence.

The word “important” is frequently applied to any art that touches on weighty issues. For me, a topical subject is not enough. For a piece of art actually to be important it has to contribute something new to the discussion: it needs to do something that other work is not already doing. Jamie McCaskill’s script and Tikapa Productions’ production of Not in Our Neighbourhood is an important contribution both to theatre and to increasing awareness of domestic violence in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Jamie McCaskill wrote Not in Our Neighbourhood while working at Whâriki Manawâhine ô Hauraki, Hauraki Women’s Refuge, as a performance advocate – using the arts to advocate against violence towards women. The author’s experience is portrayed in the character Maisey who is visiting Whâriki Manawâhine ô Hauraki to make a documentary about three survivors of abuse and the support workers there.

All five women are played by Kali Kopae. It is an interesting device to transpose McCaskill’s experience as a playwright onto that of a documentary maker. Maisey introduces herself to camera at the beginning and closes the production in the same way. She is always present in the scenes between the women but does not intrude on them. Kopae does not embody Maisey during these scenes: she is depicted only from the perspective of the women she is filming. The filmmaker and the survivors are part of the same world, instead of the more familiar form in which a playwright character speaks to the audience directly. What this achieves, along with the device of one actor as all five women, is that the survivors maintain ownership of their own stories. They do not belong to the fictional filmmaker or to the playwright. 

Kopae shifts seamlessly between the five roles and as I reflect on them I forget they were played by one actor – testament to her strong characterisation. Jennifer Lal’s excellent lighting design is integrated into the set – a simple arrangement of wooden chairs and clusters of household lamps, which transport us from a warm secure safe house to cold WINZ offices and an ominous surprise party. The Dome at BATS Theatre is set up with a raised traverse stage. The raised stage makes a clear divide between the stage space and seating block and the dimly lit audience can see one another throughout the performance. We are aware that while these women’s stories appear to be happening separately from us, we surround them. We are all bystanders.

All elements of this production: the text, direction, acting, set and lighting design work together to communicate the complexities of the survivors’ experiences. Aotearoa New Zealand has such high rates of domestic violence, sexual violence and child abuse that we will all be touched by it in some form, directly or indirectly, during our lives. It is essential to encourage people to understand the complexities around these issues but the way these stories are represented in various media is often too triggering and upsetting to justify, or perpetuates harmful messages that normalise abuse and alienate survivors. Tikapa Productions’ Not in Our Neighbourhood reinforces to me that theatre is one of the greatest ways to bring our communities together, to help us to understand issues that are difficult to talk about and to empathise with fellow human beings. 

A lot of work that deals with violent topics enacts that violence on stage. Seeing violence inflicted upon characters whom we have grown to like and trust can evoke strong visceral reactions from audience. However, I often wonder whether putting the audience through something traumatic is a safe thing to do and what it really achieves. It’s almost a foolproof way to make the audience respond to a work: if I see someone hit someone else I will always flinch. It doesn’t rely on the strongest acting or storytelling.

Last night I understood why it is not enough when a play about violence only makes me feel something because I am witnessing a re-enactment of the abuse. In Not in Our Neighbourhood only a few short moments of violence break through what is otherwise still and calm storytelling built on a commitment to truth. This is a much more challenging task for actors and directors and the Tikapa Productions team succeeds in communicating to us the complexities of domestic abuse with the utmost respect for the survivors.

Teresa’s story shows us why a woman may endure her husband’s abuse for 20 years before she is finally able to leave him. We are able to empathise with her that while she may have many friends who live nearby, she feels she has nowhere and no one to turn to but the refuge. By watching Cat’s story we understand how the court process can be re-traumatising for a survivor of sexual and domestic abuse. Sasha’s story teaches us that sometimes basic survival needs have to be responded to before work can begin to address ongoing abuse.

Not in Our Neighbourhood is not only one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I have ever seen, it also one of the most effective ways I have seen key messages about domestic violence communicated to the public. This is theatre for social change.

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Entertainingly potent theatre with purpose

Review by John Smythe 03rd Mar 2014

Jamie McCaskill and Kali Kopae are a dynamic team, using their combined skills to produce theatre that goes to the heart of who we are. In this case they expose dimensions of our communities some may prefer to ignore but they do it in such a winning way it’s impossible not to sit up and take notice.

The array of household lamps that line, light and define the traverse acting space – making Jennifer Lal’s lighting design the set design too – could belong to any neighbourhood. Likewise the women found in the play’s Women’s Refuge may have fled from domestic abuse within any socio-economic, cultural or geographic ‘hood’.

Jamie McCaskill, who also directs his latest play, wrote Not In Our Neighbourhood after working at the Hauraki Women’s Refuge for over a year; an experience which gave him “a brief glance into the world of domestic violence.” His ‘tell it like it is’ approach to profiling three ‘guests’ of a Refuge’s Safe House – plus the woman who runs the Refuge, a woman making a documentary about it and the husband of one ‘refugee’ – produces the sort of drama and comedy-of-insight that can only come from ‘warts-and-all’ authenticity.

Kali Kopae plays all five women with extraordinary flair, introducing each in a silent prologue of postures before going on to flesh out their idiosyncratic personalities and heartfelt behaviours.

Documentary filmmaker Maisey Mata bookends the play with a matter-of-fact approach to her task: giving a sample of abused women a voice in order to raise our awareness of domestic violence. Part of me wonders if this device is necessary, given the play is its own vehicle for the women’s stories. But then what we witness may be seen as the ‘raw footage’ Maisey may have to edit, depending on where her film will be screened – and if so, what would be lost? The identifying features, of course; some of the language, perhaps; and maybe some of the bits that show how one of the women is arguably her own worst enemy.  So we are in a privileged position here.

Moira Porou (hope I got the family name right) is the unsung heroine who ensures the best interests of the women remain paramount, managing the ever-present stress and challenges with an up-beat positivity.

The two women currently occupying the Safe House, at another secret address (which will have changed by the time the film comes out) are diametric opposites. Sasha Miller is quiet; either to maintain her privacy or because she feels broken and defeated. She got pregnant at 14, has since had five kids and is being denied access to the two youngest. Cat Mihinui is bolshie, aggressive, loudly pissed off with CYFS, without a job or home and compulsively attracted to controlling men who – as she does – see violence as the answer to most problems.

Amid our getting to know these women we witness a wife’s surprise party for a local businessman standing in the imminent elections for Mayor. It’s unclear to me why Maisey is invited to this, let alone filming it (if that’s what her presence in the play is supposed to suggest). But it is an effective set up for the wife’s arrival at the Refuge. Teresa Cummings represents countless middle-class women who have been suffering belittling emotional abuse behind closed doors for decades from the publicly successful husbands they feel duty-bound to support.

Despite Not In Our Neighbourhood being billed as a solo show and having all the qualities of one, the highly respected businessman, David Cummings, makes his unnervingly realistic presence felt in a ‘cameo’ appearance by Gavin Rutherford.

As a playwright Jamie McCaskill has an unerringly accurate eye and ear for all the people embodied so vividly by Kali Kopae, and Rutherford. When I think back on the play I see multiple characters in my mind’s eye, interacting with each other on stage, which of course attests to Kopae’s astonishing talent.

That said, I’m not sure the traverse staging is the best choice for a largely solo show because when a production is in the round, thrust or traverse, we really do need to see into the space between interacting characters to feel we are witness to the core action. And yet it does all remain with me as a true documentary, profoundly experienced.

Produced by Thames-based Tikapa Productions, this single performance – as part of the Pūtahi Festival at Victoria University’s Studio 77 – has been its only Wellington outing to date. I have no doubt it will be back; it certainly deserves to be, and audiences throughout New Zealand need access to it too, because it ticks pretty well every box for entertainingly potent theatre with purpose.

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