TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

15/05/2013 - 26/05/2013

Production Details

Fresh from one of New Zealand’s hottest Māori playwrights, Renae Maihi, comes PATUA, a brave new story about the death of a small child at the hands of her family.

PATUA is a verb that means to strike, hit, beat, kill, subdue, ill-treat. This story centres on baby Moni who has been beaten to within an inch of her life, a life that was wrought with poverty, desperation and broken hearts. But her cry for justice and love will not be unheeded when in a twist of fate, her unknown extended whānau discover the truth and bury her as the princess she should have been.

Following two vastly different whānau of the same whakapapa, but different tikanga, PATUA constantly asks the question “what happened to make them behave like that?” It’s a play that will provoke audiences to consider ‘nature over nurture’ and whether the wider historical and social issues facing Māori, have played a role in creating the abusers. 

Writer/ Director Renae Maihi says that PATUA mirrors society but its enduring message is that when all is said and done, this must never happen again:

“I am pleased to bring this important work to the stage. We’ve seen multiple cases of child abuse in New Zealand and though I am not saying it is specifically a Māori problem, it is undeniably so. It is my belief that real change can only happen from the inside so as an ‘insider’ i.e. a Maori woman, I decided it was necessary for me to write this play because the children we have lost during my life time is unacceptable to me. Writing this play is my way of exploring some of the tough realities, examining the issues and history that has given birth to these tragedies and suggesting the importance of maintaining ones culture because this is not our way.” 

Before it has even hit the stage, PATUA is already scooping awards with Renae Maihi receiving Best Play by a Māori Playwright at the recent ADAM NZ Play Awards.

Featuring a stellar cast of superb talent, PATUA welcomes to the stage: William Davis, Stephen Butterworth, Aroha Hathaway, Maria Walker, Cian Elyse White, Vinnie Bennett, Mohi Critchley and introducting Ngahuia Piripi.

Where TAPAC, 100 Motions Road, Western Springs, Auckland 
Wednesday 15 May – Saturday 25, May 8.00pm
Sunday 19 May, 4.00pm
Thursday 23 – Saturday 25 May 8.00pm
Sunday 26 May, 4.00pm 
Waged $25.00
Unwaged $20.00

Bookings | 
TAPAC Box Office : 09-845 0295 Ex 2 
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William Davies
Stephen Butterworth
Aroha Hathaway
Maria Waliker
Cian Elyse White
Vinnie Bennett
Mohi Critchley
Ngahuia Piripi

Producer: Hiona Henare ~ Blanket & Musket Productions
Production Asst: Padma Akula
Lighting: Jane Hakaraia
Costume: Shona Tawhiao
Set: Hemi Kiwikiwi
Sound: Sean Lynch


This is the Ariki whanau.

Dina’s lot.

Dina – widow nee Ariki – Maori, late 40’s - 50’s.. Community Nurse. Mother of Boo, Te Ao and Marire. (Aroha Hathaway)

Marire Wilson nee Ariki, 28, Maori, the eldest daughter of Dina. Can’t get pregnant with a baby so is doing IVF. Wife of Tristan. (Cian Elyse White)

Tristan Wilson – mid 30’s, Maori. Good man. Loves his wife. Carpenter. Wants a

baby. (Vinnie Bennett)

Boo, birth name Ruaunuku – 25, Maori, special needs. Mind of a child but wairua of a wise one. He is a seer. Loves babies. Innocent. (Mohi Critchley)

Tu Ariki– 50’s, Maori, older brother of Dina and uncle to all her kids. Maori priest. (Stephen Bradshaw)

Grace – 22 – Maori, currently studying commerce. Just like her mother. She has the gift. Wants to help people. (Maria Walker)

Helsy’s lot. 

Helsy Ariki, Maori, 50’s. Lost. Unemployed, hardened. Father of T and Sissy.

Grandfather to baby Moni. (William Davis)

T- 22-26 urban Maori, lives South Auckland father of Moni though he doesn’t believe it. Unemployed. BULLY. No empathy. (Vinnie Bennett)

June – 22-26 urban Maori, mother of Moni. Slave to her heart. Hapu, 3rd trimester. T’s partner. (Cian Eylse White)

Sissy – 14, urban Maori, is good heart. Innocent. She has had a hard life. Devastated about baby Moni who she always cared for. (Ngahuia Piripi)

Baby Moni – 3, Maori, daughter of June and T. In hospital dying from being beaten.

Reporter – Pakeha, woman.

Strikes a moving blow

Review by Frances Morton 20th May 2013

During a week in which a couple were convicted of neglect for raising their four kids in a home with no bedding and booze instead of food in the cupboards, the topic of child abuse is front page news. Actually, it probably wouldn’t matter which week the play opened, child abuse is all too often front page news, which is why a confronting work by a young Maori playwright on the subject is an intriguing prospect. Patua translates as strike or beat. It’s an unflinching title for a play about a Maori baby beaten to death by her own family. Writer/director Renae Maihi sets out in the programme that she had a central question when creating Patua “What happened to make them behave like this?” If newspaper reports can’t give us the answers, maybe art can. 

The play opens with a 2-year-old girl critically ill in Starship hospital and the Ariki family in hiding. Baby Moni’s household are a terrifying lot. Grandfather Helsy is the shitkicking head of the family setting the tone for his short-fused son T, who belittles his partner June with harsh doubts over Moni’s paternity. T’s younger, tender sister Sissy cowers. [More


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Challenge set down and taken up

Review by Bronwyn Elsmore 18th May 2013

“Stunning, moving, and important”, reads the advertising for this play that won a section prize at the 2013 Adam NZ Play Awards. That’s quite a build-up. And that’s not all: Patua, written and directed by Renae Maihi, sets out to be “a story, a movement” on a subject that should strike at the heart of everyone with a pulse.

Now to see if it shapes up.

The opening scene, a brief wero, immediately presents the theme of challenge and leads straight into the action relating to the serious social problem it addresses.

The members of the cast are divided between two branches of a family – close kin but far apart in the matter of functioning. Alternate scenes juxtapose situations and attitudes.

In Family 1 a battered baby has been taken to hospital. Backstory: mother left years ago (we hear later she had good reason) but since “raising a family is a woman’s job” father Helsy has abdicated responsibility with disastrous results. Keywords: nature, loss of culture, violence, with references to prison, pokie-playing and abuse revealed in bursts of harsh language.

Family 2 celebrates the birthday of a 25 year old with a mental age of 5. Backstory: father died, but mother held the family together; a couple wants a baby but have a fertility problem. Keywords: nurture, culture, education, faith, caring.

More subtle, but present, are references to smoking and alcohol. Moveable stage furniture is constructed of beer crates, and bottles are positioned in scenes relating to family 1. With changes of lighting creating very different effects between scenes, aided by the ways the actors utilize the shapes, the boxes suggest and provide varied forms and usages.

The take of the work is supported and enhanced by the framework of the play: wero, alternated scenes suggesting tau-utuutu korero, and ending with waiata,

Usually my view would be that the playwright should not also be the director, but in this case Renae Maihi’s clear vision for her work has produced a formidable result. She has drawn strong performances from the cast.

The women – played by Aroha Hathaway, Cian Elyse White, Maria Walker, Ngahuia Piripi – all present fully believable characters and are always true to them.

The men – Stephen Butterworth, Vinnie Bennett, William Davis, and Mohi Critchley – also excel. Davis, in the pivotal role of Helsy, performs it to perfection, and Critchley’s Boo is a delight throughout.

Particularly impressive is the use of gestures in some places where words would not suffice, or be superfluous.

The decision to double the roles of the young couples most closely involved with the babies is another brave one that pays off due to the skills of the two actors. The performances of both Cian Elyse White and Vinnie Bennett in their respective juxtaposed characters from each family are so distinctive that the doubling can well be overlooked.

The challenge to the audience is accentuated by the fact that the setting is local – the baby is in Starship, the women sit in Britomart. And some lines could not be more powerful in their intent: “She’s one of ours.” ; “Carrying a name like Ariki and treated like scum.”

“Sometimes the ‘right’ way to do things is not the right way.”

References to events in past history make it clear that the challenge is not restricted to the Maori community.

If pushed to be picky, I’d say some of the scenes designed for release of tension seem a little too light, particularly the short almost farcical birth scene, but many in the audience enjoy it. The lumpy pregnant puku could be improved, as could the minister’s costume.

Audience involvement is undoubted – people laugh and weep. The company, Blanket & Musket Productions (Hiona Henare with crew Padma Akula, Jane Hakaraia, Sean Lynch, Hemi Kiwikiwi, Shona Tawhiao, and Cynthia Horne), have met the challenge head on, and won.


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