Hamilton Gardens, The Beach, Hamilton

15/02/2014 - 23/02/2014

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2014

Production Details

‘Mahuika – The Goddess of Fire’ is based on the Māori legend of ‘Māui and the Goddess of Fire’. In the original story, Māui takes the magic fingernails from Mahuika and brings fire to humanity. He was a hero to all… almost.

What about Mahuika? What if she believed that Māui’s actions weren’t heroic but simply acts of mischief and thievery?

Smackbang Theatre Company brings you this classic story with a twist, and explores the well-known myth from the lesser-known perspective of Mahuika.

When: 15, 16 and 22, 23 February 2014,
            11:00am,  1:00pm,  3:00pm

Where: The Beach

Wet weather venue: Pavilion

Admission: FREE – but all and any donations gratefully accepted

Theatre , Family ,

Sat & Sun only

Not one joke misses the mark

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 16th Feb 2014

I challenge any person who goes to/has gone to primary school in New Zealand to recount at least one legend of Maui, possibly the most recognisable character of nga purakau me nga pakiwaitara (Maori myths and legends).

Today several family groups have spread blankets and unpacked picnics, gathered under the trees on the shore of the Waikato River (the closest thing you will get to an actual beach in our beautiful, if landlocked, city) to see Smackbang Theatre’s interpretation of the classic tale of Maui and Mahuika, The Goddess of Fire.

An instant hit with all of the children in the group, the four players are energetic and arresting as any children’s theatre troupe must essentially be. They garner giggles with their physical and vocal tomfoolery (why does the chorus stop singing when Amber starts telling the story?), and your heart would have to be made of stone not to see the sheer genius – and also the cuteness – of their using a tiny fluffy teddy bear as our legendary hero Maui.

Maui is tossed and thrown through the air and there is a steady flow of laughter as the legend is recounted … in all but five minutes flat.

The team realise they have done the whole ‘show’ in five minutes and resort to their suitcase of good ideas. Instructions read, they launch into a ‘flipside’ tale of Mahuika and her goddess sisters Tango-Tango (goddess of the stars and the night sky) and Hinenui-Te-Po (goddess of darkness).

These three sisters are quite nasty to each other in the vain belief that each is more beautiful than the other. The argument ceases when they meet a kumara farmer who gives them all individual tasks (which they adorably bungle) to prove their beauty. And all under the guidance of a Kiwi who is responsible for much of the great laughs that flow from this point. 

The show is great. Geared directly to primary school age children, not one joke misses the mark, and there is just enough crowd interaction (buckets of water and volunteering of mothers to be cooked are just two hilarious moments) to keep every tiny pair of eyes glued to the stage area.

Use of te reo Maori is sparse. I’d have liked to see a little more shoehorned into the script however what there is of the language is executed perfectly, which (over quantity) I will commend every time. 

I have to congratulate the company on their determination. It is a beautiful day on the river and there are no less than six boats towing wakeboards and biscuits which loudly whizz past, people walking their dogs with blind ignorance immediately behind the action, a couple who park their incredibly yappy young fox terrier up to a tree to watch the show and it yaps… and yaps… and yaps. Not to mention the teenagers throwing themselves off the jetty nearby.

As a performer myself these things would drive me barmy, and I would struggle to remain focussed, however these great young players wave at the boats and the dog walkers with a smile as they accommodate the various distractions and stay tight so that the youngsters (in my opinion the hardest crowd to contain) stay 100% stuck on the show. 

I am going to resist spoiling the ending for you, but I will say that in closing we are reminded to see the beauty in everything. If you have a school aged child you should make an effort to get along to this, it is free (though a koha bucket is placed at the end of the 45 minute performance) and plays three times a day over the weekends of the festival.


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