Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

13/04/2010 - 17/04/2010

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

06/12/2010 - 11/12/2010

Little Theatre, Library Bldg, 2 Queens Drive, Lower Hutt

29/04/2013 - 02/05/2013

Production Details

The echoes of the past weave through time and geneology to the present.
Tautai is a modern exploration of the playwright’s love of Polynesian mythology and story telling, woven into the kiekie that our Tokelauan urban youth live in today.
Tautai is a fishing trip not to be missed.
Musgrove Studio (Maidment Theatre)
13 – 17 Apr 2010
book tickets online
Telephone bookings: (09) 308 2383


Pacific theatre success comes to Mangere

Local Pacific theatre with international ties comes to Mangere in December with Tautai, a coming of age story penned by Tokelauan/Samoan New Zealander Iaheto Ah Hi. 

The writer says the play weaves together song, dance, gaming, b-boying, and giant sea turtles with his love of Polynesian mythology and storytelling. 

As a resident of Manurewa, Mr Ah Hi lends his work a distinctly South Auckland voice that appeals to a global audience.

The story of Tautai has recently been adapted to become a story arc of local feature film Matariki,which has travelled as far afield as the Toronto International Film Festival and opens at Event Cinemas in New Zealand on 18 November.

Originally written as a one-man play, Tautai has been reworked into a four-person production which features many familiar and talented local faces, including Iaheto Ah Hi (Matariki, Sione’s Wedding), Shimpal Lelisi (Sione’s Wedding, BroTown), Tavai Fa’asavalu (Pacific Institute of Performing Arts graduate) and Victoria Schmidt (Sione’s Wedding). Oscar Kightley (RadiRadiRah, BroTown) takes the reins as director. 

Tautai is supported by Creative New Zealand and Auckland Council and opens on Monday 6 December and runs until Saturday 11 December.

6 – 11 December – 7.30pm

Tickets: $20 / $15 from Mangere Arts Centre – Ngâ Tohu o Uenuku
or www.eventfinder.co.nz – a booking fee may apply
Mangere Arts Centre – Ngâ Tohu o Uenuku
Corner Bader Drive and Orly Avenue
Mangere, Manukau

Phone: 09 262 5789

2013 – Wellington season 

Part one in the Stingray Trilogy of plays.  

Tautai is a coming of age story that weaves the songs, chants, dances, and mythology of Tokelau with the beats and dance of urban New Zealand. Set in Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand, Tautai follows 16 year old master-thief Mauilata on his journey to accepting his culture and rediscovery of his roots.

The performance group O MATA will be part of Tautai: singing and dancing the Tokelauan songs in the play. We are excited to have them be part of the team in what will be a special event.

Tautai by Iaheto Ah Hi is a thoughtful and moving new Pacific work performed with vigour by experienced practitioners (including the writer himself in the lead role).” Premiere April 2010. Reviewed by Katrina Chandra, 15 Apr 2010

“Director Oscar Kightley brings this story – its music, dance, dialogue and design – together in harmony. This piece of inspired theatre is worth seeing and celebrating…” Season at Mangere Arts Centre December 2010. Reviewed by Caoilinn Hughes, 7 Dec 2010

Tautai explores the kiekie that our urban youth live in and presents it in a story with humour and heart.

“…let us take you on a fishing trip so that you may feast on the tale of this fish.”  

Dates: Monday 29th April – Thursday 2nd May 2013
Time: 8.00pm
Venue: Little Theatre, Library Building, 2 Queens Drive, Lower Hutt
Tickets: $20
Bookings:  iaheto@facebook.com or Contact Naomi Foua – 0212543833

Auckland season: Iaheto Ah Hi, Shimpal Lelisi, Semu Filipo and Victoria Schmidt
Mangere season:  Iaheto Ah Hi, Shimpal Lelisi, Tavai Fa’asavalu and Victoria Schmidt

Lighting Design: Katrina Chandra
Design: Sean Coyle 


2013 Lower Hutt season:

Starring: Iaheto Ah Hi, Shimpal Lelisi, Semu Filipo, and Victoria Schmidt 

Special guests O MATA 

Production Manager: Naomi Foua
Digital Media: Allen Vili
Stage Manager: Jaydon Perez
Administration: Ioana & Hanna Ah Hi  

Packs a socio-political wallop simply by telling the truth

Review by John Smythe 30th Apr 2013

Tautai has come of age and come home. It was twenty one years ago that the Hutt Valley Tokelau community invited Iaheto Ah Hi to join their theatre group, Tagi. The following year he was accepted into Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School and in his second (then their final) year, he developed – with permission – his solo show based on a 16 year-old cousin: a passionate fisherman who, stuck in the Hutt in an education system he couldn’t relate to, took to burglary and stealing cars to get the adrenaline rush he was missing.  

After the show on this packed opening night at the Lower Hutt Little Theatre, an uncle of the now reformed cousin tells us his nephew, a master fisherman (Tautai) and a master carver, is also a policeman now, on the Tokelau atoll of Nukunonu: “Set a thief to catch a thief,” he quips. That gets a good laugh.

Aware a whole new generation could benefit from his story, Ah Hi developed Tautai in 2010, with director Oscar Kightly on board, as an hour-long play requiring three more actors and having the capacity to include a group of cultural performers. Its April premiere at the Mangere Arts Centre, then a more polished revival in December, have led not only to this Lower Hutt (Wellington) season but to Ah Hi writing two more plays – Plantation, which premiered last year, and Digital Winds, hoping to premiere later this year – to complete what he calls ‘The Stingray Trilogy’.      

A Tautai is a master fisherman and one of his skills is ‘way-finding’. In the play the central character, New Zealand-born Tokelauan Mauilata (called Maui for short; recalling another famous Polynesian fisherman) – played by Iaheto Ah Hi, as in the original solo – has found his way forward by going back to a Tokelau he was sure would have nothing to offer a too-cool-for-school Kiwi boy like him. What plays out is the story of how that journey came to pass.   

As we take our seats, members of the O Mata! Tokelau Dance Group adorn the stage, seated in groups and singing traditional songs as they mime playing cards or other games. Centre stage on a painted dais, yet alienated from this culture, sits the man/boy we will come to know as Maui. His fear of losing his mother and his boyish “I cry when you cry” establish his unresolved emotional state – and the ensemble sings to immerse us all in the feeling.  

Here (on Tokelau) to teach his pupils, the Tautai – Shimpal Lelisi – tells us we have been chosen to learn the art of way-finding and, joined by Semu Filipo, the three men perform a robust action song that set us off on our fishing trip.

Standing on a coconut tree overhanging a lagoon – we believe it because he tells us it’s so – Mauilata introduces himself and his surroundings before diving in … to his past: a traffic-dominated urban environment; a colder light replacing the warmer one we’d taken for granted (lighting design and operation by Jennifer Lal). Ah Hi’s hip hop moves – popping and locking – capture his sense of discombobulation perfectly.     

Hahave (Semu Filipo) and Maui have been “mates since Primary” and they are The Biz; they do The Biz. Hahave is supposed to be “the bright one” – he is the bomb on computer games – but Maui turns out to be bad company …

Filipo also plays Maui’s factory-worker father, Tuluma, given 2 week’s redundancy after 27 years in the job.

Maui’s ailing mother, Fatu, given to telling traditional stories, is played with good-humoured fortitude by Victoria Schmidt and the mother-son relationship she and Ah Hi forge is compelling in its complexity. It’s not crystal clear to me but I think some of their scenes evoke the times he remembered her in the year following her death, when his need for the distracting adrenaline rush of offending was reaching its peak.

Schmidt puts in a highly popular turn as a school teacher who wants to ‘be down with the bros’ and has the moves to prove it. Her well-contrasted hard-nosed Policewoman is paired with Lelisi’s outwardly tough Policeman, who is related to Maui and has worked hard at setting up family group conferences, so exudes a sad anger at Maui’s continued offending (the stats in a court scene towards the end reveal 47 burglaries and 27 car thefts!).    

Iaheto Ah Hi holds the centre of the story with a subtle power as his ‘portrait of a Tautai as a young offender’ is gradually revealed. But the overall tone is humorous – including asides like “I don’t normally repeat [Tokelauan] words in English; just helping you guys to understand” – allowing dramatic and heartfelt moments to hit home with due impact.      

Simultaneously personal and universal, Tautai packs a socio-political wallop simply by telling the truth, albeit in stylised theatrical form. No excuses are made for the wrong-doing – its moral heart is in the right place – but its insights into the teenage experience from the point of view of a culturally dislocated and emotionally vulnerable boy (aren’t they all?) trying to find his way in the world cannot help but engender understanding and empathy.  

Find your way to the Lower Hutt Little Theatre if you can. It’s only on until Thursday.


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Inspired Pacific-New Zealand theatre at its best

Review by Caoilinn Hughes 07th Dec 2010

This wonderful piece of local Pacific theatre was performed in April this year at The Maidment’s Musgrove Studio as a ‘fully family funded’ production. Reviewer Katrina Chandra described that production as being beautiful, but still in need of “some shaping, sanding and polishing”.

Perhaps the fact that Ms. Chandra is now Performing Arts Manager at Mangere Arts Centre is a mere coincidence; perhaps the fact that Creative New Zealand and the Auckland Council got behind it this time has nothing to do with it; but the play has clearly had its polishing and sanding since April, because this performance was gleaming. Professional and original Pacific-New Zealand theatre at its best.

Tautai tells the story of a young man torn between his Tokelauan mother’s wish for him to move to the safety and heritage of Tokelau, and the local South Auckland urban youth culture of gaming and his ‘biz’ of theft.

The play features four well-known local actors in various roles. Recent Pacific Institute of Performing Arts graduate Tavai Fa’asavalu is charismatic and under-stated in the leading role (though weak on enunciation). Shimpal Lelisi (of Sione’s Wedding and BroTown) has striking stage presence and conviction. Victoria Schmidt is compelling and authentic as the story-telling mother figure, and the laugh of the evening in her role as the ‘down with the kids’ Indian teacher. Iaheto Ah Hi – aside from being the writer behind the wonderful story and brilliant dialogue – is hilarious as the allergy-ridden gaming-addict friend. You would swear the role was written for him!

Director Oscar Kightley brings this story – its music, dance, dialogue and design – together in harmony. This piece of inspired theatre is worth seeing and celebrating, so make a trip to Mangere by Saturday 11 December.
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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Strong Tokelauan hardwood still needs shaping

Review by Katrina Chandra 15th Apr 2010

Tautai by Iaheto Ah Hi is a thoughtful and moving new Pacific work performed with vigour by experienced practitioners (including the writer himself in the lead role).

This script had a reading in Manukau in 2009 and this ‘fully family funded’ production brings to life the story of a keen young fisher-boy who is stuck in a 21st Century city but seems to be trying to get away from school and family worries to pursue bigger fish.

The fish get away somewhat, but amongst the excellent chorus work and the lyrical languages used, including equal shares of rapid-fire techno-gamer dialogue and the native Tokelauan of concerned parents, a real sense of family and loss of that which gives a sense of place is wrought.

Under the direction of Oscar Kightley and Shimpal Leilisi (who also performs various characters), the actors sing, dance, pop, lock and groove through the ocean, the sky and the Pacific, charming the audience with their performances.

I particularly enjoyed the cameo appearances of Semu Filipo’s 55-year-old Aussie guy from Paramatta and Victoria Schmidt’s ‘down with the kids’ teacher. Sean Coyle’s simple design lends further mythic, magical quality to the show.

My experience of theatre is that generally work develops on the floor, live, in front of audiences and so with that in mind, this piece of Tokelauan hardwood still needs some shaping, sanding and polishing but it is beautiful and has a strong core.

If a premiere is of this quality it bodes well for the future of the work. Let us feast on this tale of a fish.  
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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