The Ragged

St Patrick's College Theatre, Kilbirne, Wellington

15/11/2010 - 10/12/2010

Production Details

Amidst the confusion of disgruntled settlers, the young and innocent are left to play with fire. Spirits are high amongst the baptized, a feast is being prepared. The betrothed fall into waiting arms. Time is on the side of the infidel, as deceit beckons the wise.

Director Jim Moriarty says of The Ragged, “…we tackle the details of our existence.” Writer Helen Pearse-Otene, has crafted this new work, based around the settlement of Wellington.

Samuel Kenning has travelled from Britain to claim his land in New Zealand. Instead he finds himself shipwrecked, declared a warrior and right hand to the local chief, Te Waipouri. Thaddeus Bly, with the firm ‘hand of God’ asserts his disciples. Mr Crippen, the government representative, visits to review the settlement. 

‘The Ragged’ is the new play produced by the Te Rakau Trust Theatre Company. Following on from the success of The Battalion, the Te Rakau Trust continue to push the boundaries of ‘applied theatre’ to heal open wounds and mend broken promises. Te Rakau Trust Theatre Company, aka Te Rakau Hua o te Wao Tapu Trust, has been under the leadership of Jim Moriarty for 20 years running. Through ‘applied theatre’ Jim and a dedicated staff tirelessly work with Maori youth, to ensure positive outcomes enabling responsible mentors in the wider community. 

The Ragged
Venue: St Patrick’s College Theatre, Kilbirnie
Dates: November 15th – December 10th  
Tickets available through Ticketek


From Jim Moriarty MNZM, Director
Ngâti Toa, Ngâti Koata, Ngâti Kahungunu, Ngâti Rangitâne, Scots, Norwegian

Tihei Mauri ora

E ngâ atua; e ngâ mâtua kua whetûrangihia, tiaho mai hei kaitiaki, hei kaiârahi mo mâtou i tçnei ao. He mihi nei ki ngâ wairua kaitiaki nui o Te Whanganui-â-Tara me Raukawa moana, ara ko Ngake râtou ko Whataitai, ko Te Wheke.

He mihi hoki ki ngâ kôrero o nehe, ki ngâ wairua tûpuna o te mana whenua, â, ki çrâ wairua â ngâ tûpuna pâkçhâ i whakawhiti mai ai ki çnei tai ma runga Kaipuke. Tuia i runga, tuia i raro, tuia te muka tângata i whakapiritia ai i raro i te maru a Rongo.

E ngâ iwi, e ngâ mana, e ngâ reo, e ngâ hau e whâ, nau mai, hâere mai ki te whare tâpere a te kura tuarua a Hato Patariki. He mihi nui ki te tumuaki o tçnei kura, ko Father Martin, nâ tâna manaaki ki a mâtou. E Pâ, tçnâ koe. He mihi hoki ki ngâ kaimahi katoa i te kura nâ tâ râtou tautoko, nâ tâ râtou awhina hoki, kia ora koutou. Ki a koutou kua tae mai nei i tçnei wâ, e hoa mâ, nau mai, hâere mai.

Thank you for spending this time with us. Thank you to all our support Whanau and sponsors. Forty years ago I left the old St Pat’s College site by the Basin Reserve and launched into the world. It’s a great pleasure to be back again and to be part of an initiative to help redevelop a new theatre space for the college and for Wellington.

Set in 1840 on Wellington’s South Coast and in Thorndon, The Ragged goes back further into our collective history. With whatever time I have left in flesh and blood form, I am deeply interested in examining our past as a means to informing our present and future, as well as trying to keep Maori out of prison. The Ragged is a first in a series of plays that will hopefully shed light on these dynamics. 

Nga mihi, Sectare Fidem 

From: Helen Pearse-Otene, The Playwright
Ngâpuhi, Taranaki, Ngâti Kahungunu-Rongomaiwahine

I have always been interested in how this country and, in particular, Wellington came to be. The names of streets and landmarks, the stories behind the various red pouwhenua that stand throughout the town, the cottages in Thorndon, the watermarks on Lambton Quay, the old shellfish middens we stumbled across behind our whare. These are footprints that constantly remind me of the history and social dynamics that brought us all here to Aotearoa and Te Whanganui- â -Tara.

As a writer I do not believe it is for me to be the waha for any particular individual or collective. The stories of businessmen from the NZ Company, the first pâkçhâ settlers or the manawhenua; their whakapapa is for their descendants to tell and for us to make sense of.

The Ragged is a fictitious play set in the real historical givens of the settlement of Wellington. It is not an exact historical account of what happened when the New Zealand Company dropped its first payload of weary settlers onto the beach at Pito One. It is a play about ordinary people who find themselves thrown into the social and environmental upheaval that is Port Nicholson (Poneke) in 1840. The characters were formed from a pûtea of resources: settlers’ diaries and letters, newspapers, oral history and journals, and from hours of just going outside and taking a good look around. Yesterday while I sat in traffic; I counted eleven tûi perched in harakeke in front of the terrace tunnel.   Zealandia is cool and so is Wellington. Tumeke Poneke. 

Theatre Marae 

The core philosophy of “Theatre Marae” has been to use historical and contemporary performance methodologies and the cultural practices of both Maori (Indigenous People of New Zealand) and Pakeha (European) to draw together a Whanau (family) under a common Kaupapa (set of beliefs). These methodologies include the use of wellness tools such as alcohol and drug awareness, anger management, conflict resolution, concepts of decolonisation and whanaungatanga (extended family). The historical and contemporary performance methodologies include using a range of Kapa Haka (cultural performances) techniques that include Waiata (music), Haka (a vigorous dance), Patu, Mau Rakau and Taiaha (weaponry) and contemporary performance practice.

The integration of these art forms work together to help participants make sense of their own collective past and enable them to engage in a healthy and holistic way with the present. This will help them also to begin to see and prepare for their individual futures where they can assert their own Tino Rangatiratanga (self-determination/authority), Arikitanga (ancestral spiritual beliefs), Kaitiakitanga (individual/environmental care) and Manaakitanga (relationships with others). 

Theatre Marae merges traditional marae rituals with European theatre techniques. The themes addressed in Te Rakau’s performances are universal, and deliberately bi-cultural, aiming to positively embrace both Maori and Pakeha culture. This results in a product that is uniquely Maori and at the same time able to be understood and enjoyed by people from all cultures.

The concept at its core acknowledges that all people have a creative and spiritual threshold, sometimes referred to as “Puroto ki te Wairua” (magic of the spirit within). In some people, as a result of certain life experiences, the ability to tap into this creative source may have been damaged. Theatre Marae is a process in the tradition of our Tûpuna (ancestors) that through its use of a variety of transformational tools will be able to tune into, access and reinvigorate that magic within, that Puroto.


Ngâ Patupaiarehe Playful spirits   
Tasi Fai; Tommy F. (
Kâi Tahu); Tyrone H. (Ngâpuhi; Ngâti Porou; Ngâti Hine); Tyrone W. (Tainui; Samoa) ; Diamond H.  (Ngâti Porou); Hare K (Ngâti Porou; Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti); George R. (Ngâpuhi; Te Aupôuri); Jadin G. (Kâi Tahu); Nathan B. (Te Arawa; Ngâti Kahungunu); Akira K. (Ngâti Kahungunu; Ngâpuhi)   

Te Waipôuri Ariki of Te Miti:   Tai Paitai
Samuel Kenning a new migrant to NZ:   Neil Connolly
Tame Te Waipôuri’s son:   Kereama Te Ua
Peata Te Waipôuri’s daughter-in-law:   Helen Pearse-Otene
Maaka Peata’s son:   Tamati Moriarty
Amiria Peata’s daughter:   Rebecca Moriarty
Hera Child in the Village:   Hariata Moriarty
Borrigan Tame’s taurekareka & an ex-convict:   Colin Barratt
Thaddeus Bly A Missionary:   Sean Ashton-Peach
Ranulf Spooner NZ Company representative:   Grant Smith
Lavinia Spooner Spooner’s Wife:   Helen Pearse-Otene
Crippen A representative for Governor Hobson:   Paul Doocey
Eliza Mulvey Sister to Lavinia Spooner:   Sasha Gibb
Mr Twist Settler:   Andrew Kosena
Mrs Twist Settlers wife:   Rebecca Moriarty

Mr Sykes Settler:   Kris Makere Fairclough
Mrs Sykes Settlers Wife:   Sandra Tuigaleava
Mrs Moss Settlers wife:   Taren Maher, Vanessa Kumar
Puttock Farmer:   Akuino Hunt

Sound Designer/Operator:   Busby Pearse-Otene
Set/Lighting Designer
:   Sean Ashton-Peach
Production Manager
:   Sean Ashton-Peach
Costume Design
:   Julia Robb
Costume Assistant
:   Marion Collins
Mahi Raranga
:   Philippa Fairclough
Lighting Operator
:   Jim Moriarty
Publicity/Assistant Choreographer
:   Tai Paitai
:   Sarah Hunter
Poster design
:   Colin Barratt

Epic passion

Review by Lynn Freeman 24th Nov 2010

Jim Moriarty may never win an Oscar or get a knighthood for his contribution to the arts, but he is exactly the kind of guy who should. When the at risk young people he creates theatre with talk about how the experience has put them on a different path, you know they mean it. This work could be ‘worthy’, instead it is gritty, gorgeous, honest and fascinating.

The Ragged is a slice of early Wellington history, where two very different cultures collide. Here a young Maori chief from a village in the new colony of Port Nicholson is seduced by the trappings of the European settlers. Meanwhile a young Manchester man seeks a peaceful life living in a Maori village rather than living on the bottom rung of a carbon copy world to the one he left behind.

Education and religion are portrayed as mixed blessings, we are reminded of the curse of disease, guns and alcohol the settler ‘landeaters’ also brought with them. The two races, it is felt, could live in peace – but not together, and the eventual extinction of Maori is predicted.

The set is simple – a boat on sand. The young men in the cast are the waves that bring the boat and its occupant to the Maori settlement of Te Miti’s cursed stretched of coastline.

Helen Pearse-Otene has written a mini epic – a big story even though the time span is just six months, starring a hardworking cast of around 30. Many are newcomers to the stage but they are so well directed and so focused that their ensemble work is a pleasure to watch.

Moriarty’s three youngsters in the cast have inherited their father’s on-stage charisma, while the adult cast members with lead roles give moving performances. The final tableau offers hope for the future as well as being a lament for all that has been lost.
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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True community theatre

Review by John Smythe 17th Nov 2010

Helen Pearse-Otene adds another impressive play to Te Rakau’s ‘theatre marae’ repertoire, with Jim Moriarty at the directorial helm. Again they reach back into history to put our shared past into perspective while providing their rangatahi* with “an opportunity to develop their self-discipline, self-awareness, self-respect, self-confidence and to work cooperatively with others,” in the process of bringing this work to life.  

Following Battalion (2006 & 2007), about a 28th Maori Battalion WWII veteran and his sisters, and Ka Mate Ka Ora (2008), about the effect of Vietnam War on a Maori family, The Ragged reaches even further back to fictionalise abiding truths concerning early Pakeha settlement in ‘Port Nicholson’. It is billed as the first instalment of a trilogy called The UnderTOW, “which will look at our country’s dynamic history.”

Played out on a pit of grey sand, the nine scenes are set in a small south coast settlement called Te Miti, in the vicinity of the present day Ôwhiro Bay, and in the village of Thorndon on the shores of Port Nocholson, from June to November 1840. Somewhere up north a treaty has just been signed …

A wooden rowboat is the central motif, redolent of a church window when upturned against the dark back wall and well used throughout as the tale unfolds. Sean Ashton-Peach’s set and lighting design, and Busby Pearse-Otene’s sound design, facilitate and complement the ensemble and individual performance elements to support the plays dynamic structure.

A turbulent sea – impressively evoked by Ngâ Patupaiarehe (playful spirits) who manifest many elements of nature along with encroaching ‘civilisation’ – washes up a new settler, Samuel Kenning (Neil Connolly), an object of fascination and playful ridicule by the children who find him: Maaka (Tamati Moriarty), Amiria (Rebecca Moriarty) and Hera (Hariata Moriarty)

Kenning assumes property rights by virtue of his dealings with the Colonel Wakefield’s New Zealand Company. Despite his habit of addressing Maori as “savage” he soon appreciates the difference between this life and the class-based injustices of industrialised England. He becomes a favourite of the Ariki of Te Miti, Te Waipôuri (Tai Paitai), whose rangatira son has been murdered, leaving his wife Peata (Helen Pearse-Otene) a widow and their children, Maaka and Amiria, fatherless.

Te Waipouri’s second son, Tame (Kereama Te Ua) is trying to prove himself worthy of taking his brother’s place. He is often away on tribal business, to the increasing frustration of Eliza Mulvey (Sascha Gibb), whose sister Lavinia (Helen Pearse-Otene) is married to the NZ Company’s representative in Port Nicholson, Ranulf Spooner (Grant Smith).

Meanwhile Anglican missionary Thaddeus Bly (Sean Ashton-Peach) is busy ‘civilising’ the natives by teaching them English and Christianity, and Anglicising their names. Despite Te Waipôuri’s admonition that he may not hit the children, a kid’s game – delightfully played out on the beach – reveals that he does indeed whack them for speaking Maori and not answering to their English names.

Alongside this unsavoury intrusion of European ‘values’, Tame turns out to have a European taurekareka (slave /wretch /scoundrel /captive), Borrigan (Colin Barratt), an ex-convict who is badly treated by Tama and everyone else – except Kenning, who would like to intervene. A conflation of Gollum from Lord of the Rings, Caliban from The Tempest and the Schmurz from The Empire Builders, although he has a playful side and enjoys games with the children, he proves the abiding truth that those who are violently abused will violently abuse others.

It is a strength of this script that traditional elements of both cultures are up for question as well as affirmation. And it is a mark of Pearse-Otene’s skill as a playwright, and Moriarty’s as director – with Alan Scott as co-director and dramaturg – that the plot, themes, action and overall purpose of Te Rakau are once more woven together with such artistry.

Only when you think it through does it become apparent how richly meaningful this work is in form, content and style. This is true community theatre – and it’s well worth the trip to St Pats in Kilbirne to catch it.

*Find out more about Te Rakau Trust.
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.


David Murray November 30th, 2010

> This is true community theatre

Why did you review this "community theatre" production?

Isn't it just an end-of-year school play?

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From contact to conflict

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 17th Nov 2010

Historical plays about real events are often simplistic or burdened with bias. The playwright always has too much background information to get across to an audience in a short time and it’s all too easy to pander to an audience’s collective beliefs and myths.

With The Ragged Helen Pearse-Otene dives bravely into the murky waters of the first real contacts between Maori and Pakeha and the beginnings of the colonization of Aotearoa by the British.

The playwright, who has written plays with historical settings such as The Battalion and Ka Mate Ka Ora, has now set about writing The UnderTOW, a trilogy about the history of Wellington. The Ragged is the first play and is set in 1840 in a small coastal settlement called Te Miti, in the vicinity of Owhiro Bay and Thorndon village of Port Nicholson. 

She tells the story of Samuel Kenning (Neil Connolly), who has escaped the satanic mills of Manchester for a better life. At the same time she tells the story of Te Waipouri (Tai Paitai), the chief of Te Miti, and his ambitious son Tame (Kereama Te Ua) and his volatile daughter-in-law Peata (Helen Pearse-Otene in a forceful performance).

To the disgust of many of the Pakeha settlers Samuel Kenning becomes a Pakeha-Maori as he is cheated by the dubious practices of the NZ Company and their power-brokers who establish a class-ridden society he had fled from. But no less devious are some of the more complex relationships and power struggles amongst Maori themselves as well as their relationship with the often arrogant colonists.

In short the playwright has attempted to see the inevitable conflict from both sides and she has also injected into the telling a highly theatrical device: a group of ten athletic young men who are ‘Playful spirits’. They appear as seagulls, bored musicians at a ball, sailors singing a sea shanty, surging waves in a storm, and scary monsters. They steal the evening along with Colin Barratt’s performance as Borrigan, a malevolent Caliban-like figure, a captured Pakeha slave to the Maori but with evil schemes to make himself a king.

Performed with a cast of thirty dedicated actors on a rectangular stage covered in sand, The Ragged at times gets bogged down with historical detail and a slightly overly complicated plot, but it is always arresting and at times with the ‘Playful spirits’ theatrically thrilling.
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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