Ruia Te Kākano: HOKIA KI NGĀ MAUNGA – Return to the Mountains

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland LIVE, Auckland

06/07/2015 - 11/07/2015

Production Details

An action packed bilingual theatre adventure for children 

Hokia Ki Ngā Maunga (Return to the Mountains) is the enchanting story of a young boy named Rima who needs the help of Māori god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, his friends from the forest and the audience to save his village.

Don’t miss this action packed bilingual theatre show with the extra bonus of being a fun filled way for children to learn and use Te Reo Māori in their everyday lives.

Part of the Matariki Festival 2015 and created especially for tamariki aged 5 to 10 years old. 

Te Rehia Theatre Ltd 
Toi tu te kupu, toi tu te mana, toi tu te whenua   
To honour, revitalise and transmit Te Ao Māori through theatre to Aotearoa and the world. 

Te Rēhia Theatre Ltd was established in 2012 by Tainui Tukiwaho and is headed by experienced theatre practitioners Keporah Torrence and Regan Taylor.  The focus of the company is to develop and present professional Māori theatre of the highest production quality that promotes Te Ao Māori and develops Māori audiences throughout the country. Over the three years since its conception Te Rehia has been highly successful in developing and presenting works both locally and regionally including tours of the Ruia Te Kākano series, Te Awarua and Hoki Mai Tama Ma.

Ruia Te Kākano series (Plant the seed)
Development of Ruia te Kākano started in 2011 and arose from the companys’ desire to pay homage to the lyrical idiom of te reo Māori.  Over the past three years Ruia Te Kākano has travelled the upper North Island presenting in mainstream and Māori medium schools for a range of age groups. The show has also been included in the FUEL Festival (2012), The Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival and the Auckland Matariki Festival (2013).

Live at Herald Theatre | Aotea Centre
Monday 6 July – Saturday 11 July
Show Times
Monday – Saturday, 10.30am 
Monday – Tuesday, 1.00pm 
Ticket Prices 
All tickets – $12.00* 
*Service fees apply

Theatre , Family , Children’s ,

Clear, captivating and witty weave of traditional and contemporary

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 08th Jul 2015

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei.

It’s a bit of a cliché to say that a show has everything but Hokia Ki NgāMaunga (Return to the Mountain) is about as close as you’ll get to that ideal. This charming tale is pitch-perfect for the four to ten year old age range it’s been created for – and for the adults who tag along with the tamariki and mokopuna to share in the pleasure.

If the opening performance is anything to go by everyone who attended loved it to bits and you will more than likely feel the same. The almost full house engaged enthusiastically with the actors responding to every request for help and support and all at maximum volume. This could have come as something of a surprise as much of the interaction requires the use of te reo Māori, something the kids seemed more proficient at than the adults, which augers well for the future of both the language and our bicultural nationhood. 

Performed at floor level in the Aotea Centre’s Herald Theatre, the goat-track like rake which often provides a challenge for the most experienced actors, doesn’t bother this talented bunch one iota and they spread their performances with ease to the four winds. 

The set is simple and consists of two L shaped screens – one to the left and one to the right – each attractively painted with a simple bush scene and separated by a larger, deeper-set, central screen that doubles as an urban space but which, at the appropriate time, opens up to expose the magnificent mountain of the title. Magical things happen behind these screens and they provide not only a hiding place for minimal costume and mask changes but contribute significantly to the ongoing action as well.

Costumes are simple with each of the four actors dressed in black with soft soled shoes and character delineation is achieved primarily through the use of excellent masks and some fine physically dexterity.

My son Finn, a theatre veteran of over 150 productions, perceptively points out this is the type of show that would be extremely easy to tour. “You could perform it anywhere,” he observes, “and you could carry everything you need in just one suitcase.”  He’s right of course, and no doubt this work will be taken into schools and community centres where it will delight everyone who has the opportunity to experience it. 

It’s ‘theatre on the run’ at its absolute best. There’s great acting, loads of humour, great physical gags, a serious environmental message built into a taut, economical script and always, always there is the joy of partaking in te reo Māori.

Before you become too concerned about whether or not you and your kids will follow the story if you are not a fluent speaker, you have no need to worry. The bilingual nature of the work is made truly accessible by the magic of fine performance.

The show opens with some excellent gags and equally wicked trickery emanating from in the lighting box. Our narrator (Valda Shadbolt) has a delightful personality, a gift for comedy and is immensely amiable. She eases us into the show and introduces us to the tools we will need to engage interactively with the narrative.  Her high energy delivery is matched by a confidence and an assurance which puts us all at our ease. 

The story plaits a captivating weave, at once steeped in tradition while at the same time deeply embedded in pop culture, as it unravels the story of Rima (Arahi Easton) whose job it is to dig coal for the electricity-generating factory in his village. He quickly realises that he is spending all the money he earns paying the factory owner for the electricity he needs, and that the damage being done to the environment and the health of the people by the never-ending clouds of smoke that belch from the factory needs to be stopped.

A friend tells him that the answer is simple: if he wants the smoke dispersed he should go to the nearby mountain and ask Tawhirimatea (Briar Collard), the god of winds and storms, to blow if all away. Rima sets out to do just that. A waiata is sung and the mountain miraculously appears.

On his way up the mountain Rima meets two new puppet friends Manu (Briar Collard), a chubby pukeko, and Rakau, a tall and elegant plant. He learns that his new chums are also friends with Tama nui te Ra (Regan Taylor), the sun, who turns out to be a most useful connection. Without hesitation Tawhirimatea agrees to help out and introduces Rima to the idea of windmills and even provides him with an example.  

While the adults in the audience are fully aware that he is talking about developing a wind farm and making electricity through the use of windmills, the object that is handed over is actually a colourful kid’s spinning toy. 

On his way back down the mountain, Rima meets the boss of the town. Through some impressive theatrical trickery, the boss deceives Rima and steals the windmill. Bereft and angry, Rima takes the advice of his new puppet friends and calls on Tama nui te Ra for help. The sun god, resplendent in a shiny gold and white Darth Vader mask – more appealing pop culture – is eager to help and introduces Rima to the idea of solar power by means of a blue Star Wars light sabre.

Good triumphs over evil and much fun is had by everyone participating – audience included – in this clever little chronicle. 

Let’s face it – and this is important – kids love farts. The coal factory, belching its toxic smoke, is beautifully exemplified metaphorically by our wonderful narrator Valda farting up a storm with the help of a well-appointed smoke machine. It’s great stuff, energetic and impulsive, and the audience eat it up. 

It seems that the relationship between playwright Matthew Donaldson, the director and cast, who have all worked together before, is an extremely effective one and I, for one, can’t wait to see how it evolves.

Director Tainui Tukiwaho has shaped a fine piece of work and his actors realise Donaldson’s script with witty clarity.

Briar Collard plays the bird Manu and Tawhirimatea with charisma and oodles of craft. At her scintillating best in a scene where she plays two masked characters each talking to the other, her craft is such that this horrendously difficult task seems as simple as falling off a chair.

Arahi Easton plays Rima with all the charismatic magnetism of a classic hero but one who is equally at home bopping, beatboxing and having a hoot with his mates.

Regan Taylor is the archetypal bad guy, swarthy and duplicitous, but equally able to transcend this villainy to create a George Lucas-like champion in Tama-nui-te-Darth.

Valda Shadbolt rounds out this impressive quartet as an hilarious narrator and a wildly ingenious farting furnace. She holds the show together, drives it when it needs, and is side-splittingly funny throughout.

The masks are especially impressive. Rima’s is wooden with beautifully carved ta moko, crafted by the highly talented Tristan Marler.  It poises this character, and the play, delicately between tradition and modernity and sets Rima apart from the other characters whose masks are all in a more commedia dell’arte style and were made by the actors themselves.

The cast is beautifully rehearsed and oozes talent. They are confident, upfront, and in love with the work they do.  At the conclusion of the show they return and make themselves available to their young audience for a question and answer session.  Each communicates with their new found young friends with ease and charm and no hint of patronising. It’s very special stuff and an outstanding memory for each and every audience member regardless of their age. 

Performing for young people is a very special privilege. Arts councils and other such agencies will tell you it’s all about building audiences for the future but its more than that, much more. It’s about creating memories, the sort of memories that resonate throughout lives, that educate through the emotions and which provide a window on the world and back into the self at a time when the self is in formation mode. 

Does the theatre ever get better than that? 

Kia ki ki te rourou iti a haere. 


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