Lower NZI, Level 1, Aotea Centre, Auckland

19/11/2016 - 26/11/2016

Production Details


Defiant dance, big bold beats and a story of love created by Hone Kouka and featuring live vocals and a return to acting by Ria Hall, The Beautiful Ones brings the late night sheen of a city club to Aotea Centre’s Lower NZI from 19 – 26 November.

Projected imagery, live music, beats, fierce dance and late night talk collide to produce an electrifying underground experience with an urban Pacific flavour.

The Beautiful Ones invites the audience onto the large scale set with open dance floor, and into the dynamic and heady world of Hana and Ihia. Will the promise the young lovers made to each other withstand the temptations of the modern world?

Auckland Live is proud to partner with Tawata Productions on this unique immersive experience, led by Hone Kouka (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngai Tahu), an acclaimed Māori screen and stage writer, winner of the Bruce Mason Award, multiple Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards and Adam NZ Play Awards. His plays have been produced internationally and throughout New Zealand, and Hone’s film work over the last eight years has included executive producing on Mahana and co-writing hip hop film Born To Dance. In June 2009, Hone became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to contemporary Māori theatre.

‘I gave myself a challenge to create a piece away from a text based work – The Beautiful Ones is the result.  A hybrid of art forms and cultures and to have so many incredible artists to collaborate with is daunting and exciting. ’ – Hone Kouka, writer and director.

Visually striking, this multi-media work features roots/hip hop songstress Ria Hall performing to contemporary music by rising producer K*Saba and award-winning musician Tama Waipara. The show is choreographed by Tai Paitai, teamed with design by artist Johnson Witehira and fashion stylist Sopheak Seng. Dolina Wehipeihana is taking on the role of dramaturg.

A highly talented crew have brought this site specific performance to life with performances by Ria Hall (AIA Marae DIY), Tia Maipi (Born To Dance), Scotty Cotter (The Rehearsal), Sharn Te Pou, Paige Shand (As Night Falls), Te Hau Winitana, Braedyn Togi and Raai Badeeu.

Theatre production house Tawata Productions, co-founded by Hone, produces the works of Māori and Pasifika writers. Based in Wellington, Tawata specialises in the creation of new multi-media work, presenting a diverse performance experience from Aotearoa to the world beyond. Its work includes the sweeping epic ; multiple award winning I, George Nepia; the Cook Islands drama Sunset Road, and kiwi/Cambodian theatre show Neang Neak’s Legacy.

‘Kouka describes the production as “loud, brash and youthful”. And while it is all of these it is also poetic, lyrical and highly original with some exquisite dance routines… a uniquely satisfying and very entertaining work’ – The Dominion Post 

The Beautiful Ones
Lower NZI, Aotea Centre, Auckland
Sat 19 November, 8:00pm & 11:00pm (Late Night Club Show)
Tue 22 November 6:30pm & Wed 23 – Sat 26 November 8:00pm
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Theatre , Musical , Dance-theatre ,

A high octane concoction of seduction and saliency

Review by Tamati Patuwai 24th Nov 2016

‘Playaz’ promenade and post up, introducing themselves with slogan type swiftness. Sharp as and on point, this is the entry, the tomokanga into Tawata Productions newest venture, The Beautiful Ones.

Showing at the Aotea Centre (Lower NZI Room), this production continues to drive Māori Theatre forward, annotating the Māori diaspora with clarity, spunk and deftness.

Set in a cyber-like utopic Aotearoa-sphere, The Beautiful Ones canvasses bold themes of looming social angst and audacious global ambition. From the outset, its highly stylised aesthetic oozes from all nooks and alleys of the simple proscenium stage.

As an instant innovation, Scotty Cotter, who plays MC ‘The Lord’, calls the audience to settle in, even to participate by dancing or posting live on social media. This offer sanctions the dismantling of the unnecessary ‘fourth wall’. This call is heartily taken up by the audience which deepens the interactivity of the space as a whole. Pai marika!

Writer/Director Hone Kouka has pulled together a fine whānau of talented artists to execute this wide-reaching tableau. The following proverb speaks volumes to this approach: he toa takitini; quality team effort is the key.

A squad of photographic champions have fused powers to create a unique live video treatment. Mapped onto the set, minimal cubist kōwhaiwhai and street life etch onto the pillars, offering a full accompaniment of image and light. This is a captivating stratum to the piece and is a true expression of the multi-sensorial abundance that is the new generation. Tena koutou katoa!

Sopheak Seng’s costume design is vastly emblematic and sensitive. Kahu purepure (dog skin cloak)-type textures and cuts mingle with athletic garb to suitably adorn the fierce young performers. It is certainly a physical piece and although striking in itself the attire is never intrusive, allowing the playaz freedom to play. Face painting evokes tribal tagging attributing to the cultural intricacy of the work.

The Kaipūorooro (musicians) – K*saba, Ria Hall, Tama Waipara, Hone Hurihanganui and Sharn Te Pou – have composed the phatest of beats, the sweetest of melodies atop smouldering baselines that penetrate the soul. The potency of the music conjures a suitable euphoria in the audience that elevates the buzz to another level.

Ria Hall is right in her zone seducing the audience with her epic vocal magic. Sharn Te Pou is markedly fresh, and equally a feast for the senses. His body and voice are sublime. Stay tuned to where this young man is heading.

The show’s dance compositions weave a masterpiece of contemporary Māori and Island choreographic splendour. Carried by really capable performers, Teokotai Paitai has fashioned intricate moves that are at once angular and aggressive, then flowing and so soft. These complex qualities are core to the principal island movements from all around the Pacific and are housed with massive skills in a fresh Hip-hop style. Notably, all of the performers radiate power and passion in their well-honed physiques.

The entire cast holds a keen and very welcoming spirit, often making eye contact with the audience. This is a difficult performative style yet the whole team thrive in their characters, following the play’s dynamic with massive skill and joy.

One point that cannot be avoided is that the conclusion is surprisingly short, even clipped. Philosophically a turn of the right check could allow this to slide as a cute or inventive surprise. However to do so would be a disservice to the kaupapa so attention must be afforded to the incomplete bits. 

Character plots and relational tensions are not fully realised. Even some more topical aspects such as the debauched drug use or the dog eat dog threads of ambition don’t play out. The experience that the audience is left with is a whole lot of great style and form with unrequited satisfaction on plot content.

The original production* underwent edits and maybe some of the initial content could be weaved back into place to satisfy a smoother close. However, in general, the overall power and joy of the creation is still intact. 

Kouka’s recurrent themes of the unceasing voyage for Māori, from Early 1900s rural NZ as in Waiora, to urban realism as in The Prophet to this futurist proposition in The Beautiful Ones, present a constant struggle. The struggle toward self-realisation amidst a post-colonial force that has compounded and compressed Māori as allegorical diamonds in the rough. However, Kouka unfailingly asserts a hope that, no matter what conditions exist, a uniquely tūpuna-driven legacy will ultimately succeed. 

Kouka continues with undeniable distinction to massage and weave contemporary stagecraft with ancient Kawa so subtly that it takes keen attention to note. This is the cornerstone to Kouka’s place in contemporary Maori culture. No reira e te Amorangi, ka tika me mihi atu ki a koe.

On the pulse, The Beautiful Ones is a high octane concoction of seduction and saliency.

No reira, me haere ki tēnei whakaari. Go get it!

It’s on at the Aotea Centre till Friday – and by the way, be prepared to groove! It is totally worth it.

No reira e te roopu mahi ra, ko koutou ra te tino kapa o nga kapa, i whakakaangia nei taku mura! Ka kite ano hei te Rāmere.

Ka mau te wehi i te tirohanga atu!

Whakaahua mai! Māori mai! Ko tātou tera!

Mauri Ora ra!
 – – – – – – – – – – – – –  
*Review of original production


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Slice of Nightlife

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 23rd Nov 2016

Born from writer and director Hone Kouka’s own experiences as part of the 90s dance party scene in Amsterdam, The Beautiful Ones is a multi-disciplinary love letter presented by Maori and Cook Islands theatre company Tawata Productions. By transplanting this nostalgia for a lost time to a present day Wellington setting, the homage becomes a platform to showcase his talented cast and crew, mixing actors, dancers, visual artists and musicians.

Best known as an award-winning playwright, Kouka surprisingly eschews dramatic conventions to tell this story. There’s no real hook or conflict except the presence of The Lady (Ria Hall) who appears to be scouting for new dance talent at The Lord’s (Scott Cotter) nightclub. They observe everything over a balcony, often talking about the other characters like they’re chess pieces, drawing parallels to the gods of Ancient Greek tragedies. Despite being significant players in the story, they often feel more like devices than characters, floating in and out delivering exposition. This is less of an issue for Hall who commands the attention of the audience during her show-stopping musical performances, more than justifying her presence. [More


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Offers welcome addition to modern Maori art

Review by Janet McAllister 23rd Nov 2016

This successful, uber-stylish nightclub musical from Wellington’s Tawata Productions feels like a dreamy album-length live music video – and the audience is invited to step into it and dance.

The hybrid show is less interested in narrative tension (there is none) than in presenting a vision of youthful Maori pride that is specifically urban and contemporary.

This is particularly exciting because high profile Maori theatre (with some exceptions, such as the recent Shot Bro) usually focuses on historic and/or rural metanarratives. [More


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Simple, genuine, warm and tension-free

Review by Leigh Sykes 20th Nov 2016

The writer/director, Hone Kouka, describes The Beautiful Ones as “loud brash and youthful… a reminder by our young ones that courage is an important thing, when it comes to the human heart.”

In a nutshell, we follow a group of characters through a night in and around a club in a city much like the one we’re currently in. We are introduced to the characters first through dance, and the choreography (by Teokotai Paitai) makes the most of the dancers’ lithe flexibility, capturing their strengths and their individuality but not in an unattainable way. When audience members are encouraged to join the dancers in some of the scenes, the whole meshes wonderfully well, and emphasises the communal nature of the piece. We are all part of the scenes, part of the scenery and part of the story.

The set (designed by Wai Mihinui and Ebony Tiopira-Waaka) gives us a clean, flexible space over two levels, where digital projections (designed by Johnson Witehira) both support and enhance moments in the show, from creating a believable alleyway outside the club, to providing moments that are more symbolic and pictorial. Much of the imagery we see is a blend of rural and urban, Māori and Pākehā, once again suggesting the communality of what we are experiencing. The characters’ movements and costumes (designed by Sopheak Seng) are very urban and hip and accompanied by some cool makeup effects that give each character an individual look.

What makes the piece so enjoyable are these characters. Each one is drawn simply but genuinely from their first entrance, first in movement, then in speech. Each one is an individual and we can respond to their individual wants and needs.

As Kotiro, Mapihi Kelland‘s engaging and finely-judged performance draws sympathy and admiration in equal measure, while Sharn Te Pou as Ardie moves us with his beautiful singing voice as we question some of his choices. Braedyn Togi as JuJu brings humour and pride, while Te Hau Winitana is staunch but caring. Bianca Hyslop as Lil Paulina and Raai Badeeu as Sachin her on-off beau show us the reality of being together, while Manarangi Mua as Hana and Tia Maipi as Ihia are the couple we hope will find each other as the piece progresses.

The performers are careful never to step over the line into caricature, meaning that we are able to care about them as well as recognise ourselves or our friends or whānau in them. We are given opportunities to see how multi-talented these performers are, and there are some very effective scenes that make the most of the performers’ movement vocabulary.

I particularly enjoy the scene where Kelland, Hyslop and Winitana repeat a sequence first in movement then dialogue that is clever, funny and very effective. While I would love to see more moments like this, there are plenty of occasions where we are allowed simply to take the time to enjoy the song, the movement or the korero and the show benefits from this.

As The Lord and The Lady, Scotty Cotter and Ria Hall are slightly removed from the world of us mere mortals, both physically (they often appear on an upper level of the set) and spiritually, as they gently pull the strings of the other characters. While the early scenes suggest that The Lord is a lord of illicit substances, as the piece progresses, it occurs to me that these two characters can also be seen as benevolent deities overseeing the lives and dreams of the ‘little people’ around them. 

Both Cotter and Hall bring grace, compassion and clarity to their roles, and of course Hall blows us away musically. I also enjoy the genuineness of her character, and when she speaks of being a ‘brown-skinned diva’ in Europe, this hints at the interest in and enjoyment of exoticism that Māori people can encounter overseas, which comes at the price of always being in someone else’s whenua. The Lady is pleased to be home in Aotearoa but knows that problems can occur here as well. As an immigrant to New Zealand, this feeling of being slightly out of place resonates with me, and draws me to Hall’s character. 

Much about this show is simple: the set is simple, the storyline is simple and the music is simply glorious. We are treated to a variety of songs, all beautifully performed by Hall and To Pou, individually or together, which are simply but effectively staged. This simplicity doesn’t mean that the show lacks depth or interest or heart. Rather it allows us to simply ‘be’ with these characters in this place, and become part of a conversation about striving for our desires, that goes beyond this one time and place.

Although there is little in the way of dramatic tension in the storyline (I keep waiting for obstacles to be thrown in the way of Hannah and Ihia’s growing affection, but – spoiler alert – they never come), the performances are genuine and warm and the show leaves me with a similarly warm glow. 


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