Hawkins Theatre, Papakura, Auckland

16/06/2010 - 18/06/2010

Concert Chamber - Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland

30/06/2010 - 02/07/2010

Taonga Whakaari: Maori Playwrights Festival 2010

Production Details

Purapurawhetu tells the story of a small community whose past, present and future are intricately woven around a young weaver. As he works, a mysterious old woman appears, revealing a past of hidden secrets, dark stories, jealousy – a past filled with loss – but a future with hope. 

Purapurawhetu was originally commissioned by Taki Rua’s Te Roopu Whakaari season, which was initiated in 1994 to showcase NZ Theatre. It premiered in Wellington in 1997 and won Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Outstanding New Play.

“Purapurawhetu was inspired by the stories of our ancestors, found in the tukutuku panels and carved poupou that decorate the meeting house. While weaving such a panel, I started to think about writing a play in which a story is being woven in fibre while its concepts spill into dramatic action taking place on stage. The pattern I chose to write about was ‘Purapurawhetu’.” – Briar Grace-Smith.

Starring Roimata Fox, Rawiri Paratene (Whalerider) and Scotty Cotter (Awhi Tapu)

‘When someone special dies, their spirit joins the others in a wild tango across the night sky.’

Taonga Whakaari: Maori Playwrights Festival 2010
Wednesday 16th June at 7.30pm
Thursday 17th and Fri 18th June at 12.30 pm* and 7.30pm
*Schools performance only

For tickets for the evening performances click herePurapurawhetu also plays in the
Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber
June 30-July 2

or they are available from the Hawkins Theatre Box Office
or Ticketek (0800 TICKETEK) www.ticketek.co.nz

For tickets for Schools performances phone the Hawkins Theatre on (09) 297 7712.



The inaugural Taonga Whakaari: Maori Playwrights Festival showcases work from pre-eminent playwrights Briar Grace Smith and Albert Belz brought to the stage by directors Cathy Downes and Raymond Hawthorne and starring a strong line-up of actors including Rawiri Paratene, Tama Waipara, Bronwyn Turei and Miriama McDowell.

This year’s inaugural event features three plays – one classic, one current release and one by an emerging playwright. It also introduces a novelty event, the 24-Hour Deadline Theatre Challenge, in which five leading Maori playwrights work to a time challenge.

Taonga Whakaari: The Maori Playwrights Festival is part of the Auckland and Papakura Matariki Celebrations. It arose from discussions at the 2007 Maori Playwrights Hui, which identified a need for Maori theatre practitioners to have a place to hone their craft.

Hawkins Theatre (Papakura) general manager Graeme Bennett, tasked with expanding the theatre into the community, saw a festival as a way to meet both objectives: “It’s an incredible opportunity for Maori to write, perform and produce their stories in a purpose-built venue, and the Maori Playwrights Festival gives the theatre the opportunity to interact with our local community.”

Bennett says community support for Taonga Whakaari: Maori Playwrights Festival is crucial and the event has the backing of the local iwi (Ngati Paoa, Ngati Tamaoho, Akitai, Ngai Tai, Ngati Te Ata), who are represented by a Kaitiaki Unit.

Kaitiaki spokesperson, George Kahi, acknowledges the history of Maori theatre: “Our kaumatua of Te Whare Tapere, people like Don Selwyn, Wi Kuki Kaa, Jim Moriarty, John Broughton, Apirana Taylor, Witi Ihimaera. I acknowledge all those who follow in their footsteps and those who are part of this new, but traditional, concept.”

There is also a reference group of performing and screen arts practitioners including Pita Turei, Tainui Takiwaho, Jenni Heka, Albert Belz and Maea Rawiri, shaping the Festival. “The process of gathering this invaluable support has been an organic one, imbued with an enormous amount of aroha from many quarters,” Bennett says.

“There has also been vital financial contribution from Creative New Zealand, Toi Whenua, North Shore City, NZ Post, Papakura District Council and Hawkins Theatre-Papakura.”

Bennett, who is also the executive producer of the festival, says he hopes it will grow in size and stature every year, “Our aim is to increase the number of productions to include multiple venues including marae around the Auckland region, and eventually to tour our works nationally and internationally.” 

Myth is a hit teamed with contemporary tale

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 18th Jun 2010

The inaugural Maori Playwright’s Festival has made an inspired choice by opening with a beautifully crafted revival of Briar Grace Smith’s Purapurawhetu.

Neatly coinciding with the appearance of the Matariki constellation, the play provides an illuminating reference point for a new generation of Maori playwrights as it melds the past with the future and powerfully asserts that moving forward requires an awareness of what has been. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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A vital contribution to NZ theatre

Review by Tamati Patuwai 17th Jun 2010

I had the honor of being in Wellington on the night Purapurawhetu was born in the late 90s. Almost 15 years later I am again honoured to view Briar Grace-Smith’s delicately crafted and, to this day, profoundly relevant theatre classic.
On this particular wintry night I attend the inaugural Taonga Whakaari Festival in Papakura’s Hawkins Theatre. In the Hawkins lobby area, I am pleased to see that many others have ventured southward from the central city to support tonight’s play. Equally pleasing it is to see an assortment of spectators who, it seems, are proud to play host to this Maori Playwrights hui. This hui, more typically housed in the eminent institutions in the Big Smokes of our country, has been carried to this bustling little town and with that I commend the festival organisers. Yes, take it to the people. Bravo!
Mana Whenua, Te Akitai gives the Karakia and welcomes the audience into the theatre. As I move with the brimming crowd I am heartened to see a Kaumatua delicately finishing his pack of KFC with finger licking refinement preparing for his night at the theatre. You don’t see that in town.
The Purapurawhetu story itself follows a small, barely functioning whanau in a rural coastal community. The family is in the process of restoring the Tukutuku panels to their Wharenui as an imposing Kuia arrives out of nowhere to uncover hidden secrets. She challenges the frayed relatives to confront their truths and to restore their own Mana and ways.
The Purapurawhetu Tukutuku design, representing the stars in the sky, is a metaphor for the complexity of family connections. As a journey of self discovery through loss of identity and even life, I restate that Purapurawhetu is as poignant today as it was when it was first performed.
The principal set is a large and seemingly well used Kupenga, or fishing net, draped atop an undulating steel frame. This almost rustic structure morphs from boat shed to Wharenui with the tilt of the head and shift of scene. Though the set – designed by Joshua Thomas – is central and, of itself, a well informed construction it is by no means domineering and complements the tones of the play graciously.
Rawiri Paratene returns to the New Zealand stage from his excursion at the Globe theatre to play the Koroua, Hohepa. In recognition of his performance and staying with the net analogy, there is an aphorism in Mâori: “Cast the old net aside and let the new net harvest the fruits of the ocean.” This proverb conveys the notion that the older generation must at one time or another stand aside to allow the younger leaders to take their place. However Paratene, who is the most senior of the Purapurawhetu cast, presents as someone who is actually standing in his prime. One minute he is like a bewildered Tuatara perched amongst a rocky outlet stricken with grief and loss, the next minute he struts a fine tango with true Nga Puhi gusto. In humility I have a deep sense that Paratene is consistently leading the way as a Chief of New Zealand actors. Pai Marika e Mara!
Scotty Cotter is also a delight as the young Tyler, who emerges as the unsung hero. Additionally Roimata Fox, exquisite daughter of Ngati Porou, generally executes the distinctive and elaborate charms of the upbeat Kuia, Aggie with obvious skill.
However generally it is Paratene who holds the piece together. At times the younger cast members tend to float around with a disconnected sense of [stage] direction. Further on from this, as the play unfolds, flaws continue to appear as fundamental shifts in character and plot clunk around with no congruency. The offers from the actors for a moment grab my attention but do not hold me for long. The cast offer bold moves yet what could be needed is a more careful and exacting directorial approach.
With respect, while there is a clear effort to honour a superb narrative and writer, my general impression would be that the Purapurawhetu team needs more work to engage with the complexities and types of nuance that a play such as this demands.
In saying this I must state that overall the cast’s energy and skill is evident, as they make every effort to share their hearts and minds with the audience. Moreover, Purapurawhetu is an important NZ play. I mihi to Briar Grace-Smith’s wisdom and deep understanding of her people and the stories that she continues to grace us with.
Purapurawhetu remains a vital contribution to NZ theatre that deserves a long life on the stage for generations to come.
It is also imperative that communities partake of the fruits that the Taonga Whakaari Festival so generously offers. Enjoy this Papakura based festival. Tautoko the festival so that it grows and maybe even stimulates others of its kind to take root in other communities.

Kia Ora.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu June 20th, 2010

It's Scotty Cotter, NOT Scotty Coffer, and the fabulous set designer was Joshua Thomas.
[Fixed - and thank you - ED]

Tamati Patuwai June 17th, 2010

Nau te rourou

noku te rourou

kia ora ai te korero

Venus Stephens June 17th, 2010

To evoke feeling in others is the best critique one can hope for, the heart gauge is the best one there is. Purapurawhetu is a beautiful piece of writing, as too was last nights performance. To the Actors, Directorial and Production folk who have brought its light back onstage to share this Matariki festival, thankyou.

You're 'o' for awesome.

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