SING TO ME
19/05/2021 - 20/05/2021
27/02/2021 - 06/03/2021
10/03/2021 - 13/03/2021
Two worlds of land and sea collide in this intoxicating love story
Two worlds collide when mild-mannered optometrist Ata and fierce sea maiden Whetū fall in love. The result: a child born of both land and sea, with Ata and Whetū navigating challenges of cross-cultural relationships, the loss of Ata’s friend and differing ideas of parenthood.
Set against the backdrop of a climate in crisis, Sing to Me is a powerful reimagining of pūrākau, stories of old, in the 21st century.
Let it transport you to another world, a realm wonderfully crafted from the talented minds of playwright Alex Lodge, director Miriama McDowell, and a creative team including Jane Hakaraia, Te Aihe Butler and Te Ura Hoskins.
Actors Rutene Spooner and Emma Katene work with live musician/performer Te Aihe to evoke a modern mythical realm, brought to the mainstage by Taki Rua Productions.
Normally $45, Taki Rua are offering $30 Early Bird tickets for all cities, on sale now! Early Bird deals are for a limited time.
Te Whaea Theatre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Wellington 6021
Sat 27 Feb – Sat 6 Mar 2021
(Auckland Arts Festival)
Q Theatre, 305 Queen Street, Auckland 1010
Wed 10 Mar – Sat 13 Mar 2021
Auckland tickets are held by the Auckland Arts Festival on their website.
Wallace Development Company Theatre, 38 Centennial Drive, Palmerston North 4410
Wed 19 May – Thur 20 May 2021
Papa Hou (YMCA), 12 Hereford Street, Christchurch, Canterbury 8011
Tue 25 May – Thur 27 May
Mayfair Theatre, 100 King Edward Street, Dunedin 9012
Mon 31 May – Tue 1 June 2021
Whetū - Emma Katene
Ata - Rutene Spooner
Musician - Te Aihe Butler
Writer - Alex Lodge
Director - Miriama McDowell
Choreographer - Tānemahuta Gray
Fight Director - Simon Manns
Set / Lighting / AV Designer - Jane Hakaraia
Costume Designer - TeUra Hoskins
Sound Designer - Te Aihe Butler
Production Manager - Cohen Stephens
Stage Manager - Debra Thomas
Operator - Austin Mather
Production Assistant - Simon Manns
Costume Construction - Kezia Maule, Anne de Geus, Jodi Walker
Set Construction - Blair Ryan, Daniel Ryan, Nathan McKendry, Simon Manns
Video Compilation - Michael de Young, Lucy de Young, Nathan McKendry
Photography - Philip Merry
Beyond the Pairs of Opposites
Review by Rand Hazou 19th Mar 2021
“Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.” ― Hermann Hesse
Taki Rua’s Sing to Me opened at Rangatira Q Theatre as part of the Auckland Arts Festival on 11 March to limited capacity due to Covid Level 2 lockdown conditions. Written by Alex Lodge and directed by Miriama McDowell, the play brings together a myriad of seemingly opposite elements; the sky and the ocean, old Māori legends and a contemporary world facing climate crises, colloquial kiwi slang and Shakespearean-style poetry, naturalistic acting and stylised physical movement – all to explore the nature of love in binding things together. Despite the social distancing and the limited numbers, the audience at Q Theatre seemed drawn in by this production which playfully explores the collision that results when a slightly awkward optometrist Ata (Rutene Spooner) falls in love with a defiant sea maiden Whetū (Emma Katene). [More]
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Attempting to reach an unreachable horizon?
Review by John Smythe 01st Mar 2021
In seeking clues as to what exactly this elusively allusive play wants to say about ‘life, the universe and everything’ – because stories do that whether we want them to or not – I return to the programme notes.
Playwright Alex Lodge writes, “It has been a scary and unpredictable past few years globally” and describes Sing to Me, her reimagining of an ancient pūrakāu, as a “celebration and open discussion about how to be happy in a world on fire. We don’t have answers, but we do have hope.”
Director Miriama McDowell notes Alex is “a Pākehā writer with a Māori son” and that there is nothing as intimate yet epic “as falling in love and making a baby. For me,” she continues, “the power of this play has always been the way it tackles the complexity of Māori and Pākehā relationships through the lens of an ancient ocean dwelling culture and a throwaway land dwelling culture.”
All three performers are Māori, although it could be said that Ata, the mild-mannered optometrist gently portrayed by Rutene Spooner, has fully embraced Pākehā culture and values. Although he has a bunch of (offstage) mates he drinks with at the pub, he appears to have no whanau connections to tikanga Māori. But that’s too literal, I suspect, for a story about a land dweller who falls in love with a sea maiden called Whetū (which means star).
Introducing the tale as he picks up plastic rubbish from the shore, the relaxed and amiable Te Aihe Butler, who will be the Musician, captures the elusiveness of reality by suggesting the blueness of the ocean and sky are interdependent reflections of each other. Is this the point of Lodge’s play, then: that diverse elements are only apparent – only exist, to be existential about it – in relation to each other? Her narrator also suggests we, the audience, are meeting her play at the horizon – where sky meets ocean – and we all know how impossible it is to ever reach the actual horizon.
Ata is given to bringing his Asian take-away meal to the jetty and mindlessly leaving the plastic rubbish for others to pick up. It is there that his longing for a soulmate is answered …
Here I must acknowledge the creative contribution of designer Jane Hakaraia. The musician’s elevated home base is within the rib cage of a whale (we are left to muse how it met its end). Between that and the jetty is the sea, evoked by swathes of blue fabric that ebb and flow – at alarming speed. It is the way judiciously lit shapes glide beneath that creates theatrical magic. AV imagery projected on a large backing screen enhances our understandings without attempting full-on illusion.
The meta-theatrics of the design elements combine with the Musician’s commentaries to encourage us to remain objective rather than get carried away by the romance.
As Whetū, the sea maiden, Emma Katene impressively embodies a wāhine toa of the moana. As a knife-wielding hunter, she is part of an age-old ecology and converses in an antiquated manner to prove it – e.g. “Wilt thou kiss me?” I have to note (having checked with others that it’s not only me) that the liquidity and speed with which she delivers her quaint locutions means I/we miss quite a bit of what she says. Her exquisite singing and dynamic physicality, however, are riveting.
Although this land-based man has no affinity with the sea as such, and his territory is totally foreign to the sea maiden, mutual love grows – provoking each of us to muse on the allegorical implications. The meeting and potential blending, through procreation, of diverse cultures is clear. Then there is the ‘Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars’ aspect. We may also muse on the need earth and water have for each other to support their very existence and their capacity to wreak havoc on each other.
Ata’s desire to introduce Whetū to his domain leads to a wonderfully realised scene where he tests her eyes and prescribes spectacles for her. She delights in the newly discovered beauty to be found in life on land while appreciating his “absolute desire to change nothing about [her].” Meanwhile she has “untangled a knot within [him].” He doesn’t mind that she returns to her ocean every morning before sunrise but when she talks of migrating north for the winter, it’s a shock – and his attempt to accept it and assert his independence is one of many comical touches.
Cue for song: ‘Always Thinking of You’ – sung by Spooner and Katene, I assert, in American accents (“ahll mah lurve”) while Butler proves it works just as well in his own voice. Apart from Whetū’s solos, some of the other breaks into song, while delightfully rendered in delicious harmonies, also seem somewhat out of place in terms of the dramatic conventions apparently established.
When Whetū invites Ata to an underwater pre-migration feast at the reef and reciprocates his gift to her with a simple fix to his breathing system, he is less able – less willing? – to accommodate her lifestyle; their food preferences, in particular.
Back on shore, Whetū’s announcement that she is pregnant collides with his discovery that one of his pub-mates, Adeem, has drowned. This takes us to interval – and I look forward to finding out more about this clearly important friend (or have I missed something in the earlier descriptions of Ata’s pub life?). But this turns out to be incidental, so is rather oddly placed as the climax to Act One.
Pronouncements about love pepper the text and three are offered in the programme: Love is a tunnel, where no other light gets in; a cave where all you can hear are your own voices; a death of the self.
The visual shock of Whetū in a frock, albeit dangling her feet in the sea as she sings ‘It’s Time for You’ to her bump, accompanies the Musician foreshadowing what is to come with a modified quote from T S Eliot: “This is the way love ends…”
Whetū wants to leave; Ata begs her to stay. Their differences of opinion and perceptions include what food is best for the unborn baby, the fact that physical fitness has become an industry on land, the destruction wrought by the Industrial Revolution …
While Ata’s proposed presentation to work colleagues about acknowledging the oppression and harm they have wrought on the sea is well intentioned, Whetū asserts he is not the man to make this speech – which I’m not sure is a valid equivalent to Pākehā pronouncing on Māori grievances.
Spectacular news footage of Australian wildfires and endangered southern right whales – expertly voiced by Butler – attest to Planet Earth’s environmental crisis and the element of combat inherent in mammalian mating. Whetū and Ata dance (to the end of love / of the world?).
There is the birth – a son, the question of which world the boy belongs in, a departure, a return … Ata still feels an ambivalence towards the water that took his friend yet gave him a son. Not coping, he seeks solace in smoking and the pub … Whetū does the presentation at work … The story is getting quite muddled at this point; rather than weaving together it seems to be unravelling.
There is an earthquake. Despite the threat of a tsunami, Whetū doesn’t want to leave (no mention of what this upheaval might be doing to her underwater world). The visual manifestation of the giant wave coming to engulf us all is spectacular. My scribbled notes suggest it is “pummelling the corporate world” – a metaphor, then, for the seismic change we need if life as we know it hopes to survive on the planet? Was Ata supposed to represent the corporate world? I can’t say I got that.
We are left with the drifting whales watching us …
Given the playwright’s description of her plays as a “celebration and open discussion about how to be happy in a world on fire”, I suppose for forces of nature generating a tsunami to quench the fire is an image we can conjure with.
There is no doubt the issues confronting humanity and life as we know it on this Earth are overwhelming. It is understandable that a young mother in a bi-cultural relationship has an urgent need to find a positive and sustainable way forward amid complex opposing forces – and theatre offers an ideal arena in which to share that need with fellow humans.
The creative mahi and undoubted skills brought to this production are to be admired and applauded. Yet I cannot help but feel that Sing to Me’s creators have yet to select and extract the elements that can be distilled into a potent play. Or is such an ambition no longer relevant in these uncertain times?
Are we witnessing the evolution of a new theatrical genre that simply draws us into a swirl of divergent dilemmas then leaves us to sink or swim in them? And when we choose to swim, are we attempting to reach that unreachable horizon?
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Powerful and compassionate piece of great theatre
Review by Andrew Smith 01st Mar 2021
What’s it like to raise a child when the parents come from two different cultures? Is it possible for your child to walk through life with a foot in both worlds, or will it end up having no home at all? These questions underpin Taki Rua’s latest production, Sing to Me.
In this powerful piece by Alex Lodge and directed by Miriama McDowell, mild-mannered optometrist Ata falls in and out of love with fierce, supernatural sea-maiden Whetū. Introduced in the programme as a modern take on Maori pūrākau, it’s an idea that echoes in Western culture as well … [More]
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