THE RAGGED (Wellington 1840)

Te Papa: Soundings, Wellington

20/01/2015 - 28/01/2015

Production Details

Te Rākau Theatre with support from Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangātira, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Te Puni Kōkiri presents ‘The underTOW’*: A quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington – past, present and future

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua – Man disappears but the land remains.

Part One: The Ragged (Wellington 1840)  

Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, level 2
20 – 28 January 2015

It’s 1840 and all the players are here, at the bottom of the world, at the dawn of the great new British Colony: Port Nicholson, Wellington, New Zealand 41.2889° S, 174.7772° E

NZ Company representatives the Spooners – for them a grand residence in Thorndon, flooded shacks for the rest. Come to Wellington – the land is flat, the climate sub-tropical and bananas grow plentifully!

Newly arrived settler Samuel Kenning – “safe and well at the ends of the earth” and ready to claim his land and his better life. 

Governor Hobson’s man, Crippen, quelling the settlers’ fears of an impending savage attack.

Missionary man Thaddeus Bly bringing the firm hand of god to Port Nicholson and its natives.

But what of those natives? Those Māori over in Ōwhiro Bay? Wise but stubborn old chief Te Waipōuri and his people.

Surely they are grateful for the presence of these sweet talking men, these landeaters whose mouths froth for the land…?

The Ragged follows the struggles of the ordinary, yet extraordinary people who called Wellington home in 1840 and is the first in writer Helen Pearse-Otene’s quartet of plays about the settlement, development and future of Wellington, The underTOW. 

Dates: 20 – 28 January 2015
Venue: Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, Level 2
Evening shows: 7pm (Open forum after the show)
Matinee shows: 1pm, Fri 21, Sat 24 January (Open forum after the show)
Bookings: here

*The underTOW

Te Rākau Theatre Company is excited to announce a new series of plays to bring Wellington’s rich history to life, with support from Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangātira, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Te Puni Kōkiri.

In support of Ngāti Toa’s residency at Te Papa, Aotearoa’s longest surviving Māori theatre company, Te Rākau, will present their work over the next three years at the museum, taking audiences on a journey into Wellington’s past, present and future with writer Helen Pearse-Otene’s quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington – The underTOW. 

The series, beginning in 1840 and concluding with a look into the not –so- distant future, offers a uniquely Māori perspective on the city’s history and the ordinary people who achieved the extraordinary.

The project is a special one for Jim Moriarty, of Ngāti Toa descent, who along with Jerry Banse formed Te Rākau in 1989. Jim has spent decades working throughout Aotearoa and around the world as an actor and director. Here in Aotearoa he and Te Rākau remain dedicated to supporting communities through the company’s marae-based theatre programme. 

“This series of plays about the settlement of Wellington, starting with The Ragged in 1840, has always been a passion of mine and Helen’s – to unravel our collective history to better grow our understanding of each other; the diverse cultures that make up Aotearoa today, but in particular, the stories of our Māori and Pākehā ancestors.

The underTOW series at Te Papa, the home of our national taonga, and in conjunction with Ngāti Toa Rangātira’s residency, provides a perfect opportunity to venture beyond historical amnesia and look at some truths about our collective and sometimes murky past.” Jim Moriarty

In her research for the series, Pearse-Otene drew on local stories, including a mixture of diary entries and letters by settlers. While the plays themselves are works of fiction they are deeply rooted in history and the sentiments of the times in which they are set.

“Although I consider Wellington to be “home” this town is still a mystery to me in many ways. I am often amazed by the old stories that are hidden beneath the surface of this shaky ground waiting to be uncovered – stories that speak of uncertainty, struggle, misunderstanding, resilience, and hope. To me, the underTOW series is a love letter to Pōneke and to the treaty that made this country.” Helen Pearse-Otene

The series begins in 1840 with The Ragged, which explores early relationships between settlers, the New Zealand Company and the Tangata Whenua.

Part 2 – Dog and Boneis set in 1869 during the second Taranaki campaign of the New Zealand Wars and gives insight into the origin of the negative stereotypes that are perpetuated about Māori.

Part 3 is Public Works, set during World War I when the Public Works Act was used to build schools, churches, public buildings and war memorials, but also to alienate Māori from their lands.

The final instalment is The Landeaterswhere we face the day after tomorrow. 

Te Rākau Theatre looks forward to welcoming a diverse audience to Te Papa’s Soundings Theatre over the coming years to laugh, cry, learn, forget, understand, appreciate, challenge and, most of all, participate in Wellington’s history. 

Te Rākau Theatre

Established in 1989 by Jim Moriarty and Jerry Banse, Te Rākau is a Wellington based Māori theatre trust that works in schools, prisons, Marae, rural communities, and youth justice residencies around Aotearoa-New Zealand. Through its Theatre Marae programme, Te Rākau collaborates with communities to create and present high quality and socially significant theatre works which resonate culturally, therapeutically, and artistically for audience members and participants alike. Te Rākau’s kaupapa (core philosophy) for its work is:

“To advocate for Tino Rangatiratanga (sovereignty), Mana Taurite (equity), and Whanaungatanga (belonging) for all New Zealanders through Theatre Marae.”

Te Rākau is a member of Te Pūtahitanga-a-Te Rēhia, a collective of independent Māori theatre practitioners, writers and artists in Te Upoko-o-te-Ika (Wellington region).


Helen Pearse-Otene (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Kahungunu-Rongomaiwahine)
Helen is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington and Toi Whakaari:NZ Drama School. As a performer, Helen has toured throughout Aotearoa and overseas with Māori theatre productions including Waiora (Hone Kouka), Purapurawhetu (Briar Grace-Smith) and The Battalion.

Helen has been a member of Te Rakau since 1999, working in every aspect of the company except the accounts department because “I can’t count”. The Ragged is Helen’s fifth play for Te Rakau. Her play The Battalion was included in the 2006 NZ Festival of the Arts and another, Ka Mate, Ka Ora was commissioned for the 2008 Vietnam Commemoration Tribute 08. Earlier this year, Helen won Best Female Actress at The Wairoa Film Festival, for her performance in No Petrol, No Diesel. Helen is particularly proud of this award as she was told that it was a close battle between her and the goat from Boy, as “Every actress knows it’s very difficult to win against someone who has a great death scene, not to mention a well trimmed beard”.


Jim Moriarty MNZM (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitane, Scots, Norwegian) A sober Catholic Māori and father to 8 children, Jim was tarred with the performing brush at an early age. Long before Black & White television, when valve radios reigned supreme, Jim was infected with the need to be the centre of attention. Of course, coming from a family of 8 siblings and many whangai, this was rarely the case for Jim. Needless to say, Jim battled on through the late 60s in the Māori Theatre Trust, and in the timber town television series Pukemanu. In the 70s, Jim stumbled in and out of local soap opera Close to Home, and in the 80s landed on his feet in New Zealand Theatre.

Singing, sometimes dancing, occasionally acting up a storm, over the next 30 years, Jim earned the status of Veteran New Zealand Actor (Jim says the only thing “veteran” about it is that he seems to have outlived a number of his peers and mentors and is close to earning his “Gold Card”). Brought up on the Marae at Takapuwahia, educated through Catholic primary and secondary schools, following a short stint at Victoria University, Jim got a real job and trained as a Psychiatric Nurse (following in the footsteps of his parents). Jim is “forever grateful” for the mix of his blood, to his hard working mother and father and to the teachers who bothered to bother: “The teachers came in a variety of shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities, and degrees of intensity. So anything I might be good at – or otherwise – they are all to blame.”

In the last 21 years, Jim has spearheaded Te Rakau Trust, using his skills as a performer, a director and as a health professional to support the journey and development of those less fortunate.


Tanemahuta Gray (Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne and Tainui ) Tanemahuta Gray graduated from the New Zealand School of Dance in 1994 and is their current Māori Kapa Haka tutor and that of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. He has worked professionally as a dancer, choreographer, aerialist, director, teacher, adjudicator and producer in New Zealand and abroad and has produced and directed 16 productions and outdoor events.

His choreographic works include five years guest choreographing on the South Pacific Section for WOW – World of WearableArt Awards; the Oceania representative work (from New Zealand) at the World Expo Opening Ceremony in Shanghai and his major opus Māui – One Man Against The Gods. He has co-curated three Kōwhiti Dance festivals and was the Artistic Director of Te Matatini’s Arohanui – The Greatest Love. He has provided Kapa Haka choreography for Hone Kouka’s Tū and The Beautiful Ones and worked with Te Rākau co-producing their production of Ka Mate, Ka Ora during Tribute08 – A Vietnam Veteran Commemoration which he was the Creative Director of. 

Tanemahuta is a conversational speaker of te reo Māori and has focused on mastering mau raakau (taiaha). His focus has now been on creating a new form of Maori contemporary movement with Kōrari, a fusion of contemporary movement and Māori Martial Art forms.

The Ragged - Cast and Creatives 2015


Producer: Sasha Gibb
Costume Design: Cara Waretini
Lighting Design: Lisa Maule
Sound Design: Busby Pearse-Otene 
Marketing and Publicity: Aneta Ruth
Promotional graphic design: Walter Hansen 

Theatre ,

1hr 30mins (no interval)

Richly textured, insightful, humorous, sobering and energising

Review by John Smythe 21st Jan 2015

This is Wellington’s story. It’s 1840 in Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui (the head of the fish of Maui), also known as Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara (the great harbour of Tara), aka Poneke (Port Nick /Nicholson), aka Britannia before Wellington is settled on as the name.

Actually, after a prologue that contrasts Māori myth and legend (Potoki, Maui, Kupe) with the departure of settlers from England and the arduous sea voyages they endured, the action starts on the rugged south coast, at Ōwhiro Bay, in the grip of a roaring storm.

Busby Pearse-Otene’s dynamic sound design and Lisa Maule’s brilliantlighting add great value to the production, as do Cara Louise Waretini’s evocative costume designs.

A ‘patupaiarehe’ chorus, whose smart attire hints at toffs and/or their servants with tufts of white plumage, use white sticks ingeniously throughout, initially to help manifest scavenging gulls. Tanemahuta Gray’s choreography of their set pieces suits the play’s purpose beautifully and is nicely counterpointed by the Settlers’ period dances, coached by Jo and Rodney of ‘Feet with Heat’.  

Under the overall direction of Jim Moriarty, Helen Pearse-Otene’s exquisite script finds a generously open performance style to honour its fictionalised evocation of how Māori and Pakeha both clashed and coalesced in the process of colonisation. In distilling an essence of the Wellington experience, The Ragged captures a nationwide, even global, phenomenon in all its complexity. While she clearly revisits history with a strong political consciousness, Pearse-Otene is not one to resort to simplistic ‘goodie vs baddie’ plotting, and her play is all the more absorbing for that.  

What the storm throws up in Ōwhiro Bay is a naïve but determined new settler, Samuel Kenning (Matthew Düssler), who has rowed from flood-prone “Peetoe nee” determined to make his own mark on the south coast free of the Thorndon clique’s class-ridden control of Wellington’s future.

It’s the Ariki’s mokopuna – Maaka (Tamati Moriarty) and Amiria (Hariata Moriarty) – who challenge his right to stick pegs in their whenua. And their mother, Peata (Martine Gray), agrees with her son that he’s crazy for behaving as if he is the chief of the Ōwhiro Coast.

But the actual Ariki, Te Waipouri (Jim Moriarty), dismisses the warnings of his step daughter and mokopuna, that he has come to steal their land, and welcomes Kenning as a young warrior sent to protect them. He credits Kenning with saving his mokopuna from the sea monster Te Wheke, who was once seen as their guardian but now, thanks to Christian teaching, is feared as dangerous.

The most fascinating aspect of Pease-Otene’s text is Borrigan (Noel Hayvice), Te Waipouri’s taurekareka (slave), an English ex-convict, used and abused by his master as a scapegoat and kicking boy. Somewhat redolent of Tolkien’s Sméagol /Gollum, his flowery language suggests he was well educated; an upper-class ‘black sheep’ despatched to the colonies to preserve the family’s reputation, perhaps. Apparently deranged, given to fanciful storytelling and obsessed with the idea of becoming King, he has become the mokopuna’s plaything, and vice versa.

In light of his final fate, Borrigan may be seen as the embodiment of all that is foul in the corrupted culture Victorian England seeks to inflict on Aotearoa. And also inherent in this storyline is a potent object-lesson in the backlash consequences of abuse, which makes Te Waipouri instrumental in his own fate rather than a mere victim. There is more than a nod to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus in what transpires.

A subplot concerning the death of Peata’s husband (Te Waipouri’s older son) and the conflicting responsibilities and aspirations of his younger brother, Tame (Nepia Takuira-Mita), is also positively Shakespearean in the complex motives it explores. Tame is destined to become Ariki, so Borrigan’s hopes for freedom lie in him. Meanwhile the itinerant Tame, increasingly a ‘man of the world’, is caught between Peata’s wish for the whanau’s integrity to be maintained by their marrying, and his sophisticated relationship with a young Englishwoman in Port Nicholson, Eliza Mulvey (Sarah McMillan) who is desperate to escape the boredom of Thorndon.  

The Port Nick settlers, with their sense of entitlement and plans for progress, are presided over by the less-than-honourable New Zealand Company’s representative, Ranulf Spooner (Regan Moyes) and his wife Lavinia (Anna Shaw), along with Governor Hobson’s representative, Crippen (Louis Tait).  

Thaddeus Bly (Sean Ashton-Peach) is the well-intentioned missionary whose insistence on the Māori children speaking only English is embraced by the likes of Maaka (“You have to speak English if you want to travel”).  

The choral singing by the whole cast – all 30 of them! – adds further quality to a production that is fully focused in its commitment to telling this richly textured story with flair. Quite why Johnny Cash gets the last word with ‘Hurt’ (originally by Nine Inch Nails) escapes me but that is a minor quibble.

Many insightful gems pepper the play which is deeply rooted in a profoundly researched history, only some of which may be readily available in books or online. Senior high school students, tertiary students and anyone interested in what lies beneath our capital, will find it rewarding.  

This production of The Ragged (which had an early development season in November 2010) is part of Ngāti Toa’s residency at Te Papa, where Te Rākau, will present their work over the next three years. Helen Pearse-Otene’s quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington – collectively entitled The underTOW – will continue with Dog and Bone (set in 1869 during the second Taranaki campaign of the New Zealand Wars), then Public Works (set during World War I when the Public Works Act was used to build schools, churches, public buildings and war memorials, but also to alienate Māori from their lands). The final instalment will be The Landeaters “where we face the day after tomorrow”. 

As well as being the start of an important project, The Ragged is a richly textured, insightful, humorous, sobering and energising gift to Wellington and Aotearoa /New Zealand. Not to be missed.


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