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

07/09/2023 - 16/09/2023

TAHI Festival 2023

Production Details

Co-directed by Nicola Hyland (Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi and Ngāti Hauiti) & Sally Richards
Composer - Angelique Te Rauna Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngati Porou, Tuhoe, Ngapuhi

The Secret Glade by Jthan Morgan (Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Sapapāli’i, Magiagi, Lotofaga)
Tuakana/Teina by Michaella Steel (Tainui, Rarotonga)
No Love, Only Tears by Vela Manusaute (Niue, Samoa, South Auckland)
Hine’s Monologue by Poata Alvie McKree (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, St Vincent, Barbados)
B.M.I: Bad. Mōmona. Īhaks. by Isaac Martyn (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa)
From Ear to Ear by Tainui Tukiwaho (Tūhoe, Te Arawa)

Presented by TAHI: New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance and Taki Rua Productions

TAHI New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance

ONO is a collection of six new monologues by Māori and Pasifika writers especially commissioned for TAHI New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance 2023. Six unique voices from Aotearoa.

These six stories weave together concepts of aroha/alofa, in a myriad of ways: as both tūingoa (noun) and tūmahi (verb). From learning to love our tīnana, to the mysteries of sisters; from lost and loveless fathers to a whānau bound by struggle; from a cautionary tale of inherited power to the love stories which thread through a whakapapa – ONO will take you to the heart of humanity itself. Starring Erina Daniels, Robert Ringiao-Lloyd and Kaisa Fa’atui.

ONO follows the success of TAHI’s collection of monologues Batch, Whānau and Joy.

“Not only have this group of artists created a thoughtful and thought provoking meditation on the theme of joy, but they have also created a joyful production that engages and enlightens while it entertains.”
— Regional News (Joy, 2022)

“a profoundly insightful and engaging sextet of memorable encounters.”
— Theatreview (Joy, 2022)

7–16 Sep
Circa Two
Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4.30pm
$30 – $35

Runtime: 90mins, no interval

Audience Care: Mentions of domestic violence and death. Might not be suitable for younger viewers.

Co-Director - Nicola Hyland (Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Hauiti)
Co-Director - Sally Richards
Lighting Designer & Technician - Isaac Kirkwood
Production & Stage Manager Intern - Parekawa Finlay (Ngāti Tuwharetoa , Ngāti Maniapoto, Whakatohea)
Dramaturg - Maraea Rakuraku he uri o Te Urewera, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa me Ngāti Pāhauwera
Composer - Angelique Te Rauna Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngati Porou, Tuhoe, Ngapuhi
AV Content Maker - Rebekah de Roo
Directing Intern - Emma Katene (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa)
Graphic Design - Aimée Sullivan
Festival Production Manager - Beth Barclay
Technical Production Manager - Bekky Boyce

Erina Daniels (Ngati Wai) OR Emma Katene (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa)
Kaisa Fa’atui (Fa’atoia, Vaiala, Gautavai, Vaito’omuli Palauli, Vaovai Falealili - Samoa)
Robert Lloyd

The Secret Glade by Jthan Morgan (Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Sapapāli’i, Magiagi, Lotofaga)
Tuakana/Teina by Michaella Steel (Tainui, Rarotonga)
No Love, Only Tears by Vela Manusaute (Niue, Samoa, South Auckland)
Hine’s Monologue by Poata Alvie McKree (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, St Vincent, Barbados)
B.M.I: Bad. Mōmona. Īhaks. by Isaac Martyn (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa)
From Ear to Ear by Tainui Tukiwaho (Tūhoe, Te Arawa)

Theatre , Solo ,

90 mins

Superbly crafted stories brought to life in riveting performances

Review by John Smythe 13th Sep 2023

ONO gets a big ‘O yes!’ from me. Yes I know, as you will, that ono means six. It also means planting which may be relevant, given the sustenance offered by the experiences we witness and vicariously share. As for what is being planted … taihoa ake.

The polylogue component of each TAHI New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance has become an eagerly anticipated event. Past pleasures have been: Tiny Deaths (2019); Batch (2020); Whānau (2021); Joy (2022). This year, ONO treats us to six new monologues by Māori and Pasifika writers, especially commissioned for TAHI through partnership and manaakitanga with Taki Rua Productions. A development process was facilitated by Co-directors Nicola Hyland and Sally Richards with Maraea Rakuraku as dramaturg. Each well-crafted result is dramatic, insightful and surprising in its own way.

Ngā kupu ‘AROHA’ and ‘ALOFA’ are projected on the upstage wall of the Circa Two stage. This is the uniting theme of ONO. The disparate perspectives on ‘love’ and the quests to reclaim or find it are explored, as noted in the programme, as both tūingoa (noun) and tūmahi (verb).

Also disparate are the three actors – Robert Ringiao-Lloyd, Kaisa Fa’atui and Erina Daniels* – who bring impressive distinction, in both senses of the word, to the two roles each of them plays. But first they open proceedings by facing us and taking three deep breaths – a non verbal ‘Tihei mauri ora!’ perhaps, and/or an indication of what we should also do before engaging with each of the monologues to come.

It is Robert Ringiao-Lloyd who, as the father of a 16 year-old, honours the birthday boy’s wishes by taking us into ‘The Secret Glade’ (written by Jthan Morgan), to regale us with the tale of The Princess and the Trickster. This sounds like fun – those fair-skinned mythical patupaiarehe that live in the bush are friendly, ne? Except this one uses his magic to trick the daughter of a powerful chief into thinking she loves him …

I sense a resonance of the appalling Mama Hooch predators in Christchurch, except in this case a child is born, life goes on, the syndrome repeats through generations and vengeance becomes the driver. As a fairy story, ‘The Secret Glade’ gives the Brothers Grimm a run for their money. You may also see it as an allegory for inter-tribal utu wars in centuries past or the insidious ‘magic’ wrought by colonisation.

Michaella Steel’s ‘Tuakana/Teina’ is named for the older and younger sisters whose fraught relationship forms the story, as told by Erina Daniels in role as te tuanaka. She fully inhabits the experience, from childhood – playing Peter Pan to her teina’s Wendy – through teenage angst to young adulthood and flying off on her OE.

While Peter’s infamous “To die would be an awfully big adventure” and its converse are played with in the context of confronting clinical depression and associated guilt, I doubt anyone would not be gripped by relatable elements. It’s astonishing how much life experience we get to engage with in such a short time from one actor in a bare stage using a prop scarf ingeniously.

The same goes for Vela Manusaute’s ‘No Love, Only Tears’, although an image of Jesus adds to the set. Here, the quest for love feels impossible for the son of a Niuean immigrant father, now a father himself, manifested by Kaisa Fa’atui. The mantra “Whack. Smack. Smash.” peppers his story. It begins with his paternal grandfather leaving his family for another woman, causing his son to be fostered out to relatives who treat him like a slave and plant the seed of anger deep down.  

Love – or is it? – does comes in the shape of a beautiful village girl who becomes the mother of our narrator. The account of their arrival on New Zealand in 1979 offers welcome comic relief. But the displaced family’s comparing themselves to the role models they see on TV does nothing for their self-esteem. Alcohol. Whack. Smack. Smash. And Jesus does nothing. Will this man, who does not share his father’s concept of manhood, be able to break the cycle of generational abuse?

Erina has aged considerably in her initial personification of the title character in ‘Hine’s Monologue’, by Poata Alvie McKree. She is talking to her dead Tongan husband, in an attempt to recover the respect and love they once enjoyed in spite of their cultural differences. It’s an often amusing story of strength and resilience as they make a home and family.  

The turning point comes with the Dawn Raid that consigns Hine’s parents-in-law back to Tonga. “Aro…” punctuates her monologue now. Arohia means to face, take heed, consider. But the pressures of work, lack of work, alcohol, gambling and the malignant influence of the church take their toll. “Aro…” We share Hine’s quest to add the “ha”.

Comedy returns with Kaisa’s energised evocation of a gym bunny in Isaac Martyn’s ‘B.M.I: Bad. Mōmoana. Īhaks.’ Audience interaction enhances the entertainment factor as he battles the bulge and digital figure that measure how well he is doing – or not. The prize for comical quip of the night comes with his answer to how come he weighs more after he’s taken a shit.

This monologue also takes a turn to show the flipside of gym-boy’s ebullience. There is an unseen partner who personifies the body-shaming demands that feed his self-loathing. What will it take for him to reclaim love for his tinana: his body; himself?

Tainui Tukiwaho’s ‘From Ear to Ear’ brings different surprises, beginning with Robert’s wheelchair-bound Koro asserting that since the beginning of time there have been only five perfect smiles – and five stories about how they came to light. He recounts the first, as told by his Nanny, which involves a street urchin in ancient times, and only has time for one other.

The Spaniard and the Wolf tracks the tale of an imprisoned Christian boy who becomes a servant in a Moorish house and falls in love with a daughter of the house. Their escape involves a great leap of time, faith and generations that sees young Juan (the Spaniard) land in 1940s New Zealand where he meets and marries a Māori woman called Linda (the Wolf). She has five children (not all of whom survive), 12 grandchildren and 32 great grandchildren, and bares her teeth to ward off countless threats, before that next perfect smile emerges. And now her immobile mokopuna must honour the wero his Nanny laid down, for him to find the next perfect smile …

It’s a perfect ending to 90 minutes of superbly crafted stories brought to life in riveting performances. Kudos to Rebekah de Roo for the AV content, composer Angelique Te Rauna, and Isaac Kirkwood as Lighting Designer and technician.  
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*Last week Emma Katene (Directing Intern for this production) replaced an indisposed Erina Daniels, and I believe she will be taking those roles when ONO travels to Tamaki Makaurau. I saw her in preview performance. Emma and Erina have very different personas yet both owned the roles with total conviction which also attests to the universality inherent in the writing.


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