Crystal Palace, New Plymouth, Taranaki

23/08/2017 - 23/08/2017

Blyth Performing Arts Centre (Iona College), 42 Lucknow Road, Havelock North

30/09/2017 - 30/09/2017

Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Christchurch

08/09/2017 - 08/09/2017

Taranaki Arts Festival 2017



Production Details

Created and performed by Mara TK and Tola Newbery

Come along to support the development of New Zealand theatre for a show that explores the idea of prophets in Māoridom.

Actor Tola Newbery and musician Mara TK join forces for Poropiti: Prophet, a performance that features theatre, song, sound and movement.

Inspired by the influence of T W Rātana and the story or Parihaka, both young men combine their Māori roots and their creative talents to share a vision of Aotearoa’s very own prophets.

Newbery is a graduate of Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School who, since graduating, has worked extensively in theatre and appeared in the 2013 movie, The Pa Boys.

Mara TK, the son of Māori psychedelic rock legend Billy TK, is fluent in voice, guitar, bass and beat machines. Outside of his band Electric Wire Hustle, the multi-award winning artist has recorded and performed with the likes of Kimbra, Fly My Pretties and Tim Finn.

In this highly visual work the audience gets a chance to see innovative, fresh and ground-breaking theatre.

To the point: Physical theatre/ exploration of prophets/ Māori culture/ song, sound, dance/ multi-talented pair/ highly visual/ innovative and fresh

Crystal Palace
Wed, Aug 23, 8pm

Great Hall The Arts Centre
Fri 08 Sep, 8:30pm
$49 / Conc $45 / Student Rush $20
*Fees & conditions apply, see How to Book.

The Blyth Performing Arts Centre, Iona College
Sat 30 September 2017
Admission: $32-$47
Audience: Audience: 13+

Mara TK - best electronic album 2015, New Zealand Music Awards
Mara TK - APRA 2015 Professional Development Award

Lighting Design by Glenn Ashworth
Produced by Gareth Farry from Sugarlicks New Zealand

Theatre , Physical , Musical ,

55 mins

Seeking new pathways to reconnection

Review by Terri Ripeka Crawford 01st Oct 2017

He mihi nui ki ngā poropiti o te ao Māori.  

A new work in development, it is important to encourage all of our mana whenua narratives into full being.  The incredible musician Mara TK, his compositions and sound layers are the hero in this work.  There is a reverence that TK brings into our theatrical realm as a musician performer.  However his movement on stage is restricted and timid. 

Actor Tola Newbery, performs steadily paced mostly movement-based stanzas. 

There is much to be explored here choreographically, however strong direction is lacking and the execution ultimately untidy.  The choreography is undeveloped, the physical interaction awkward.  The potential for strong symbolic intention through the body is yet to be realised.  Further, for physical theatre work, there needs to be a fuller commitment to the dramaturgy, choreography and overall direction.

The projected visuals, moana, ngahere, colonial impacts, are paced and offered environments for connection.  Although at times, it feels unnecessarily dissonant, such as the ngahere visual complemented by Te Whiti o Rongomai song.  Faux fur capes and kete, the costuming and props could be further considered, and further live soundscape explored. 

An abrupt visual shift from nature-scapes to a closing fish and chip shop exterior places us in the now.  Possibly the most powerful scene for me, the final song, with all its rawness, is an exploration of continued connection to the land.  Arms reach to the sky, in wonder, in hope. 

There are many layers to our historical narratives.  Any and every opportunity to explore and manifest them opens new pathways to reconnection. 


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Fascinating and hypnotic

Review by Erin Harrington 09th Sep 2017

Singer and musician Mara TK and theatre artist Tola Newbery’s new production Poropiti (or, Prophet) weaves together physical theatre, projection, light, and live and pre-recorded music to offer a meditation on Māori history, hope and spirituality. We start in pre-European Aotearoa, before moving, almost impressionistically, through the arrival of the colonists, the Taranaki wars and the atrocity at Parihaka, the emergence of the Rātana prophetic movement, and contemporary attacks on spirit and wellbeing.

Poropiti, quite aptly, is imbued with a profound sense of grace and dignity. It embraces simplicity, gesture, and quiet – but most certainly not passive – contemplation. In some places, this is evidenced in its silence or stillness, even in the presence of violence and hostility.

In one particularly powerful moment, Newbery, in cloak and with taiaha, stares intently at us – in horror, maybe, and fascination – while an early illustration of a ship appears, looming large, behind him. In others, it comes in unexpected forms, such as in a soulful and generous rendition of American rapper Kendrick Lamar’s incendiary song ‘Alright’.

After the movement through ‘early’ Aotearoa history (in the sense of European time) we are abruptly brought into the present day, and there is a strategic sense of shock about it. We switch from the image of shimmering water (and all its connotations – especially te taha wairua / spiritual health) to the exterior of a fish and chip shop, where young men sleep rough and form their own community, expressing hope through song and the language of contemporary cultural prophets. It’s a powerful shift, a painful one, and one we know must be coming. That said, after the coherence of the show to this point, it feels as if there’s something small missing in a dramaturgical sense that would better bridge the divide between spiritual and economic cause and effect, and the piece’s gently optimistic resolution.

The irony’s not lost on me that this piece is being performed in the newly and lovingly restored Great Hall of the Christchurch Arts Centre, the Victorian neo-gothic complex (within spitting distance of significant mahinga kai, a notable Māori settlement, and a key trading site between European and Māori) that once housed the city’s university, which is as emblematic of cultural, ideological and spiritual forces of colonisation as anything else. This isn’t a jarring juxtaposition; if anything, Poropiti speaks back to the space, gently but firmly, making a clear articulation of faith in something better.

This is a fascinating and hypnotic show that demands, and rewards, the audience’s focus and attention. It’s also criminally, upsettingly under-attended, much like the other shows I’ve been to so far in the Christchurch Arts Festival, so much so that I’m left wondering what’s gone wrong at the level of infrastructure and support. This is a huge pity, as this is exactly the sort of contemporary, exploratory, and utterly necessary local storytelling that should be nurtured and seen widely.


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Vision of the prophets, and of the audience, compromised

Review by Lisa Simpson 24th Aug 2017

Poropiti is a performance inspired by Aotearoa New Zealand’s rich tradition of Māori prophets. This tradition has seen men such as Te Whiti o Rongomai, Tohu Kākahi and Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana striving to lead their people through the fractured landscape of colonisation. Many in the audience tonight will have had connections to these men, as Parihaka Pa lies 45 mins drive around the coast and Ratana Pa is two hours away in our neighbouring province.

The show consists of a series of projected images in front of which two performers work. There are images of water, the bush, a sailing ship, a village burning, a suburban fish-and-chip shop and a sunset. 

Tola Newbery is the principal actor. He begins at ground level, gradually moving upwards, experiencing the time of darkness, the separation of Earth and Sky, the coming of Europeans, and eventually a present day existence that seems impoverished, halting, disjointed and ritualised. It seems that the visions of the prophets, to retain a sense of identity and rangitiratanga, have not endured. His attire changes from a kahu kiwi to a white shirt to a bucket hat and blanket worn by a street person.

The performance is rooted in song, played live on stage by a soulful MaraTK. Waiata move into songs in English, setting the mood of the performance, commenting on the images presented and referencing the struggles of others to find their place in the world.

Unfortunately I am unable to see most of the performance, as are the 11 high school students I’ve brought to the Crystal Palace spiegeltent.

The single level general admission seating (advertised as restricted viewing) in front of a low stage leaves us craning our heads to see around others craning their heads.

Performers are visible only from the waist up if I perch on the edge of my seat; from the chest up if sitting back. Much of the action takes place at a low level and it is frustrating to see actors’ hands, or a back, or a taiaha being used on the stage floor, and to be unable to take meaning from the action. As this show has little dialogue and relies heavily on tableaux and movement it is really not possible to appreciate what is being presented.

Other audience members are seated on a higher level around the edge of the space and no doubt their experience differs from ours. Sadly this is a disappointing theatre experience for us.


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