The Sun and The Wind

16th Avenue Theatre, 174 16th Ave, Tauranga

28/07/2023 - 26/08/2023

Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland

20/03/2024 - 24/03/2024

Production Details


Writer: Tainui Tukiwaho
Director: Edward Peni
Producer: Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho

Taurima Vibes


Prepare yourself for a birthday party you’ll never forget.
In the midst of a birthday celebration, Rangi and Hūkerikeri (Keri) are caught off guard when two unexpected guests crash through the door intent on robbing the couple. But things don’t go as planned when the older couple mistake the would-be thieves for their deceased son and his wife.

Come with us as we explore the dangers of love and secrets. Of loving someone too much, not enough and being starved of it.

Join the minds behind such shows as Black Ties, Larger Than Life and Peter, Paka, Paratene for a truly heart breaking and surreal theatre experience.

Circa Two
28 Jul–26 Aug 2023
Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4.30pm
$30 – $55

Written by Te Pou Theatre’s founder Tainui Tukiwaho, The Sun and The Wind takes inspiration from family stories of separation, and the longing to reconnect and remember.

The Sun and the Wind is produced by Taurima Vibes, Borni’s Auckland based company. With a strong focus on wellbeing, mental health awareness, and belief in systemic reform, Borni brings all facets of his learnings to the table.  ‘’Im guided by three pou: My hauora and arts sector brokership expertise; my whakapapa and whānau knowledge, both of which fuel my understanding of Te Ao and Matauranga Māori; and my belief that our creative sector and creative artists are an immense value to the uplifting of ALL communities”. These are the major driving forces in the way Taurima activates its mahi.

A relentless workhorse, producer, playwright, screenwriter, and actor Tainui is currently collaborating with circus innovators Dust Palace to create the next Māori circus collaboration. Earlier in 2023, Tainui directed ‘Hemo is Home’, a play he co-wrote with his tamariki during the first covid lockdown. Hemo is Home starred Tainui’s 10 year old son, Te Rongopai, and premiered to exceptional reception at Te Pou Theatre in March 2023. “Everything’s a bit of a family affair with our work at Te Pou Theatre.”

Tainui plays Rangi for the premiere of The Sun and the Wind, a man paralysed by grief, whose life comes to him in flashes of energy and delusion. Rangi’s wife Hūkerikeri is played by accomplished New Zealand theatre pro Julie Edwards (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Whare). Keri keeps their world patched together, sacrificing her own needs, leaving her emotions a simmering cauldron of rage and despair.

The young couple, Hihi and Kate, played by Joe Dekkers-Reihana (Ngāpuhi), currently appearing in Auckland Theatre Companys “King Lear”; and Tuakoi Ohia (Ngāti Hine, Mataatua, Tainui, Te Arawa, Te Āti Awa), writer, actor, musician of “Kōpu” (Kia Mau Festival 2023), and lead for Black Ties, the first indigenous collaborative works between Māori and Australian First Nations People.

Kate loves Hihi and has given up her whānau to be with him. Hihi wants to make a fresh start for his young family, but doesn’t know how to do that without making a few questionable choices. The Sun and the Wind has been expertly crafted to generate insightful korero, provoke, and challenge with a side serving of the cheeky, self-referential humour, that is synonymous with Aotearoa.

Directed by Unitech alumnus, Edward Peni (Samoa), and designed by Katrina Chandra (Ngāti Paoa) and Nicole Marsh (Ngati Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa), The Sun and The Wind promises an emotionally rich and edgy sense of home at Circa this winter.

Audiences will be invited to korero with the cast and crew after each performance, extending manaakitanga and allowing space and time to debrief together.

UPDATE FOR THE TAMAKI MAKAURAU AUCKLAND SEASON:

The role of Rangi will be played by Taungaroa Emile.

Q Theatre Loft
20 – 24 March 2024
Thurs – Sat 8:00pm, Sat 2:00pm, Sun 4.00pm
$30 – $55


Cast:
Julie Edwards
Tainui Tukiwaho
Joe Dekkers-Reihana
Tuakoi Ohia

UPDATE FOR THE TAMAKI MAKAURAU AUCKLAND SEASON:
The role of Rangi will be played by Taungaroa Emile.

Designers:
Katrina Chandra
Nicole Marsh
Eve Gordon


Theatre , Te Ao Māori ,


75 minutes

Perfect performances enable audiences to consider the effects of intergenerational trauma

Review by Acushla-Tara Kupe 22nd Mar 2024

Most whakaari use the structure of asking questions which are slowly answered throughout the piece. We’re usually taken on a journey and by the end, we arrive at our destination. The unique and inspired ngako of The Sun and the Wind nā Tainui Tukiwaho is that by the end of the play a lot of those questions posed throughout are left with us, the audience, to work through on our own. This kaupapa feels like a taputapu gifted to us to process our own grief and mamae. It encourages us to take these pātai home and continue the kōrero with our whānau. He koha hirahira te whakaari nei – this play is an important gift.

With only an hour and 15 minutes to play with, it is a bold directorial choice to have the first 5-10 minutes with close to zero dialogue. Engari, ka tika. The astounding performances from Taungaroa Emile and Julie Edwards within this quiet have us hooked, as Mum gently prepares the table for dinner and eventually feeds a whole meal to a stupified Dad who can’t look away from a very poignant third, and empty, place setting.

It’s made very clear after this opening scene what our destination will be, there’s no doubt about it. But the intrigue lies in the pātai: Why are we going there, and how do we get there after the incoming interruption. As all good pakiwaitara go, ehara tēnei i te huarahi tōtika, it’s never a straight road. As it’s introduced that we will arrive at our final place at exactly 9.10pm, two tauhou enter the scene. Stockings on faces, aggression in bodies, it’s clear they’re not here for a visit. It’s the arrival of these newcomers that finally brings Dad out of his stupor and we hear him speak for the first time. What follows is recognition, confusion, more pātai, aroha, manaakitanga, volatility, healing, devastation, and as expected we reach our destination laid out in the opening at 9.10pm.

{Spoiler Alert} He pūrākau te whakaari nei – This play is a myth. A story that doesn’t always make sense, that leaves a lot of ara open, but that tries to teach us something about the core of being human. The core of this particular pūrākau is the devastating and inevitable effects of intergenerational trauma. We discover abuse in the history of Mum and Dad, and that the empty place setting belongs to their son who took his own life. {Ends}

Some of the traits from this whānau can be seen in the young couple who have broken in, and the potential for its continuation lives in their unborn pēpi. How do we break the habits and whanonga that carry this mamae through the generations? Yet another pātai we’re encouraged to take home with us, kia wānanga ai.

The performances are perfection. Each kaiwhakaari is perfectly cast for their respective kiripuaki. Julie Edwards as the matriarch Mum is so volatile in the best way. One minute we feel like we are individually wrapped up in her cardigan in the warmest hug and the next she makes us feel so unsafe. These extremities are difficult to pull off but Edwards’ performance nails every single moment, leaving us with a whole lot of morally conflicting feelings.

Similarly, Taungaroa Emile has a tough job as Dad moving from silence through the first 20 minutes of the play to coming to life quite abruptly. The magic of Emile’s performance starts from the second the lights came up with his perfectly formed tableau at the table, through to his final moments. Emilie plays his very complex and confusing character with such truth and empathy it is beautiful to watch.

Tuakoi Ohia is such a brilliant performer and it’s great to see her in a hard-hitting role. Ohia lives very comfortably in the comedy space in other performances of hers I’ve seen, and she paired this skill with astounding depth to create a fully formed human lost in the confusion of what is happening around her who is struggling desperately to hold onto some control. It’s within her character Kate we see some hope, and I’m grateful to the pūkenga of Ohia for getting us to that point of hope in the final moments amidst the devastation.

Rounding up the cast is Joe Dekkers-Reihana who plays Hihi, confused for the son who was lost 21 years ago on what is ‘coincidentally’ Hihi’s 21st birthday. Hihi’s journey is incredibly complex as he falls further into the world of Mum and Dad, having lost his own parents when he was younger, and with too many coincidences for there not to be some otherworldly connection. Dekkers-Reihana navigates these often-murky waters with an ease that holds the waka on its course.

The staging and set design by writer Tainui Tukiwaho, although beautiful in its minimalism, doesn’t quite work as well as it could have. I’m lucky enough to be sitting stage left where the majority of the action takes place and feel for the audience on the other side who will not have the same access to the performance. The kitchen space is stage right, denoted by classic black and white tiles, but the props such as the dinner plates, cake and various other items appeared and disappeared into a hole in the blacks. Although I appreciate the clean aesthetic, this feels like a missed opportunity, and I’d love to have seen more intention put into this convention.

Lighting design by Katrina Chandra subtly keeps our focus where it needs to be. Simple and clean, it ties perfectly into the rest of the design. The sound design by Eve Gordon perfectly mimics the internal landscape of our four kiripuaki. The songs throughout feel thematically appropriate but without our kiripuaki turning them on in any way it gets a little confusing – which waiata are playing out loud and which are heard internally? It’s one of the only areas of murkiness and unanswered questions that bugs me. Although uncredited, the costume design is great, immediately giving us clues to who we were watching, with some subtle juxtaposition that allows for trust and belief to be built in places before it is snatched away, or vice versa.

Finally, director Edward Peni absolutely nails this piece. His style and choices perfectly support the journey of the piece and package up our unanswered questions safely for us to take home with us. His use of silence, stillness, explosive responses, emotional breaks and pacing have us hooked and leaning far forward in our seats from the opening tableau to the final. Peni is an expert and has rendered this piece beautifully.

Is it all rational and believable? No. But no good myths are. And as I sit here writing this, I’m still full of pātai in the best way. I don’t feel like it’s the whakaari’s place to answer them all, and I’m glad they haven’t. It allows me to bring it home and ponder for myself the effects of intergenerational trauma, abuse, self-loathing, the competing natures that live inside us all, grief, loss of a child, intentions vs execution, survival instinct, and what ‘my best’ looks like for different people.

Tēnei te mihi ki ngā kaimahi kua pupuri haumaru ai i a mātou. A huge thank you to everyone who worked on this play for carrying the audience safely through the evening. Just like Shakespeare would lift the taumaha off of his plays with a song and dance at the end, this rōpu greets us with smiles, acknowledgements of what we’ve all just experienced together, and a karakia kia whakanoa. A beautiful ending to an intense evening. Me haere tōtika ki Q Theatre kia mātakitaki ai e te whānau.

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Inspired writing, great performances, and totally committed storytelling

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 21st Mar 2024

As a young actor I ached to hear authentic Kiwi voices in our theatres.

Yes, I’m elderly, but I’m not talking about the nineteenth century, I’m talking about the 1970s. The standard fare in our newly constituted, professional theatres consisted of plays primarily from the UK and Europe. No criticism intended, many of these productions were more than worthy, and the plays themselves were profoundly good, but it wasn’t an indigenous voice, and I certainly wasn’t hearing a voice that spoke intimately to me.

Of course, Shakespeare spoke to me. So too did Chekhov, Ibsen, Shaw, Strindberg, Wilde, and Osborne. While I was surrounded by literary greatness in my everyday life, writers like Glover, Baxter, Fairburn, Sargison, and Janet Frame, when it came to the theatre, it was Bruce Mason, Greg McGee, and not much else.

Yes, this is a generalised, somewhat glib, observation but largely true, nonetheless.

This began to slowly evolve over time but the changes were initially cosmetic. What we got was a kiwi voice, but it was a male, Pākehā lens that our theatre going audiences were encouraged to view our culture through. Odd, since 80% of theatre tickets through this period were purchased by women.

Yes, I know. This is a broad-brush view and there were outreaches of difference that became the norm but, in the main, what we ended up with by the end of the 70s, was an antipodean mirror of what was happening in Europe.

It’s different now.

It’s just as hard to make work in Aotearoa as it has always been. There’s never enough support from the funding agencies, even for the more conventional work, and for innovative work there’s virtually nothing. We do what we do on the smell of an oily rag and burn out is a real thing. I’ve done my bit, but it was never going to be anything that contributed significantly to the development of an authentic indigenous voice.

Te Ohu Whakaari was that voice, a Māori theatre cooperative formed by Rangimoana Taylor in the early 1980s that created and performed plays across the motu. It was such a great step forward. Taki Rua Productions, established in 1983, remains committed to producing New Zealand theatre works. Their work has been life changing. A few smaller companies came from the shadows into the light and produced extraordinary work, work that was different in its essence, work that spoke with a different cadence, a voice that emphasised different themes, work that spoke in a rarified, but ever-welcome, tongue.

I stopped holding my breath. At last, here was the voice I had ached to hear.

Te Pou Theatre was established in 2015 initially in New Lynn before moving to its current location at the Corban Estate Arts Centre in Henderson. Like the rest of us, COVID had a profound impact on the development of Te Pou, but unlike many of us who revered the silence, put teddy bears in our windows, and celebrated being members of ‘The Team of Five Million’, Tainui Tukiwaho and his immediate whānau created two plays. It’s to the credit of the founders of Te Pou, and all those who have pitched in since to advance this platform, that’s so much quality work has been completed in and around this kaupapa in recent times.

I had the privilege of reviewing one of Tainui Tukiwaho’s two COVID plays, the one chosen to open the new space in Henderson, Hemo is Home. It was exceptional, challenging, funny, and an at times disturbing work.

Tonight’s work is the second written by Tukiwaho during those months of lockdown. Hemo is Home was written with his kids as a home-schooling exercise. The Sun and the Wind is a much darker work, a work of the midnight hours when the creative mind is free to roam the boulevards of portentous dreams and ominous visions. Having the dreams is one thing. Writing them down is another. Rehearsing the result and putting it on the stage is something else entirely. It takes a special type of courage to unpack our demons and to know that others can grow if we share them.

Because that’s what we do.

Tukiwaho set himself two wero (challenges): ‘make the hostage genre surprising again and find an interesting way to use a gun in a show’.

Yep. Done that. Both achieved.

To my mind, The Sun and the Wind can be seen as a companion work to Hemo is Home and I wonder if there might be a third in the offing.

A trilogy has synergy.

I’d dance on my own grave if that came to pass.

My spouse and I were privileged to attend the opening night of this new work as guests. I’m sure there will be those who consider this to be some sort of conflict of interest and that I should just shut up, this is New Zealand after all, the land of the long acknowledged tall poppy knocking syndrome. It’s not a conflict really though, is it, because this is New Zealand with its 2° of separation. I seldom attend a performance where I don’t personally know someone associated with the production. Put this down to age, obsession, or just the way we are as a community that is so closely connected as whānau.

The Sun in the Wind has close links to a fable by Aesop. It’s even mentioned in the tightly structured script.

A precis of the original might be: The North Wind and the Sun argued, with much heat and bluster, over who was the stronger. As they fought, a Traveller passed by wrapped in a cloak.

The Sun suggested that ‘the stronger is the one who can strip the Traveller of his cloak’ so the North Wind immediately sent a howling blast against the Traveler.

The first gust of wind whipped the cloak about the Traveller’s body, but he immediately wrapped it closely around him. The harder the Wind blew, the tighter the Traveler held his cloak around him. The North Wind tore angrily at the cloak, but it was in vain.

When the Sun began to shine, at first gently and with a pleasant warmth after the bitter cold of the North Wind, the Traveller unfastened his cloak and let it hang loosely from his shoulders. The Sun’s rays grew warmer and warmer. The man took off his cap and mopped his brow. At last, he became so hot that he pulled off his cloak, and, to escape the blazing sunshine, threw himself down in the welcome shade of a tree by the roadside.

Aesop’s moral? Gentleness and persuasion win where force and rage fail.

It’s a charming story and it subtly underpins this production which, to be honest, has more than its fair share of both gentleness and rage.

The Sun and the Wind is complex and a difficult but engrossing watch. ‘The cleansing kōrero and karakia performed by the cast at the end is a beautiful touch and allows the audience to exit the theatre with a sense of relief from the confronting themes of the play. As all good theatre should do, it leaves much to digest, deliberate, and discuss.’

Tautoko that. Personally, it was most necessary.

The story is simple. An elderly couple, Rangi and Hūkerikeri (Taungaroa Emile, Ngati Kahungungu, Ngati Kuki Airani) and Julie Edwards (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Whare) prepare to celebrate the birthday of their long-deceased son. Rangi, in pain, is locked inside himself. He sits, barely moving, with a pointy party hat on his head. His wife potters about caring for him, gently feeding him while feeding herself too, and chattering away intermittently. Both occasionally have moments of quiet private anguish. Director, Edward Peni, and his cast have the courage to take as long as is necessary to play out this scene. The result is that it’s incredibly moving. We fill the silences. We’ve all been in situations not dissimilar to this.

Tuakoi Okia (Ngāti Hine, Mataatua, Tainui, Te Arawa, Te Āti Awa and Ngāi Pākehā) plays heavily hapū Kate who, in the middle of the raging storm, bursts into the room shattering the bizarre domestic idyll. She is accompanied by Joe Dekkers-Reihana (Ngāi Tū Tē Auru, Ngāpuhi) as her somewhat manic partner Hihi. It quickly becomes apparent that they’ve erupted into the room with the intention of robbing the old couple. It’s also clear that it’s unlikely that they will succeed.

An extraordinary series of assumptions are made, and Hihi is mistaken for the couple’s long dead son of the same name, same birthday, and same appearance. Somewhere in this puree of coincidence, delusion, wish fulfilment, happenstance, and retrocognition, and with the unquestioning (and unwitting) collusion of every audience member and each of the characters, The Sun and the Wind produces some of the most watchable theatre I have ever seen. The writing is courageous, delicate, and detailed and we are left in no doubt at all that Tainui Tukiwaho knows exactly where he’s taking us on every step on this journey. We wonder, as we watch the narrative unfold, just who we are focusing on at any single moment, just who is driving this story through to its inevitable end.

Again, without question, we willingly collude with this unconventional proposition.

It’s incredible writing and totally committed storytelling. Everything seems up for grabs at all times which keeps us in a constant state of heightened expectation. What started as a sad tale of late in life domesticity transforms into a psychological thriller with arcing themes of grief, delusion, loss and longing, and that unique mental state woven from trauma and which, transforms, via mutual intersecting consent, into a domestic horror show. Only Kate remains in what seems to be the present as we vacillate between what is real and what is imagined, what is in the ‘here and now’ and what is in some illusory past. Is any of it real, or are we being mercilessly manipulated for some purpose that is never evident, and how can we be expected to unwind Tukiwaho’s intricate intersections and false leads to find clarity before it’s too late.

One thing we know without being told, if we get it wrong it’s all going to hit the fan.

Yes, I’m intentionally avoiding spoilers, those intrusive phrases that, should you see the play and you should, will have you saying ‘but she said’ as you wait for some affirmation of my words that won’t ever come.

It’s that sort of play, it’s relentless and you just need to keep up. It’s worth it, believe me.

Part of me wants to tell you exactly what the story is, but if you want to know that badly you can go online and hunt it down because it’s there for you if this is what you want. I would advise against it though. Just experience the play and receive it raw because, raw, it has a unique power to disrupt, to trouble, and to alarm.

The performances are all excellent, smart, wonderfully rehearsed, and there for the taking. They’re a rare gift, just for you. Peni’s direction is subtle, nuanced, and clearly illuminates Tukiwaho’s brilliant text.

There are trigger warnings you should observe. Check them out. Don’t let them stop you engaging with this extraordinary work but take them on board in a way that I failed to do. I have used the word disturbing and there are aspects of the play that left me deeply challenged. Events in my own past, trauma unaddressed, is exposed but in such a way that no damage is done, just reflection, and a new self-knowledge exposed.

I am glad for the kōrero at the end of the performance. Tradition insisted, and I welcome that. The time it took to say what needed to be said was almost sufficient for me to stop blubbing like a big sook and to recover my dignity.

It would be easy to say that we were seated in the front row because we were invited guests. The truth is that age and infirmity has caught up with me and I don’t move as freely as I might. A thoughtful usher ensured I didn’t have to unpack my impersonation of an antique mountain goat to climb even the smallest number of stairs to get to some distant seat. I was most grateful for this.

I was also grateful to be sitting next to someone even older than I am. At the end of the evening, when it was time to go home, I put my hand on his thigh and said ‘nice to see you, Sir Ian. It’s been a long time’. He looked up at me and grinned and said, ‘Not really, I follow of you on Facebook.’

Normalcy was resumed.

In the foyer kai was shared and I enjoyed a dry ginger ale before heading off into the night, a night filled with induced memories from the show that I continue to revisit.

Tainui Tukiwaho has ventured into a realm seldom visited in my theatrical experience. His work borders on the supernatural, but in ways that are both accessible and challenging in the same breath. He plays with the concepts of time and space, and always, always, from the perspective of Te Ao Māori.

On an evening where I had my withers well and truly wrung, I found myself reflecting on my ‘70’s dreams of an indigenous theatre for Aotearoa New Zealand, one that we could all be immensely proud of. It’s happening in front of our eyes, and the brothers Tukiwaho and their fantastic teams are at the very front of the pack.

Taonga.

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A birthday party full of love and sacrifices

Review by Sarah Catherall 03rd Aug 2023

It seems pertinent that we watch The Sun and the Wind – the debut play by Auckland’s Tainui Tukiwaho – as 100kph gales blast Circa Theatre and Europe is boiling.

While the 75-minute play is not about climate change or global weather extremes, it is based on Aesop’s children’s fable The North Wind and the Sun, which tells how the sun and wind compete to see who is stronger by making a traveller remove his jacket. The moral of the story? Persuasion beats force. The whanau-led play opens with quiet stillness as we meet Hukerikeri (Julie Edwards, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Whare) – a kuia – who is caring for her husband, Rangi (played by the writer, Tukiwaho). [More]

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A powerful showing of love, jealousy and what can fester in between

Review by Waitahi Aniwaniwa McGee 30th Jul 2023

In the midst of a birthday celebration, Rangi (Tainui Tukiwaho) and Hūkerikeri – Keri for short – (Julie Edwards) are caught off guard when two unexpected guests crash through the door intent on robbing the couple. But things don’t go as planned when the older couple mistake the would-be thieves for their deceased son and his wife.

This show is about whānau. I see my nan, my aunty, my cousins, my uncles, my parents.

At the beginning of the show, us audience are perched, watching, almost waiting, acutely aware of the silence, however as we see Keri taking care of her husband Rangi, the birthday celebrations and kai, the silence fades and their entire relationship fills the theatre. It is literally all relationship, no words – and that stuff is hard to pull off man. Wow. This is one example of many crisp moments throughout the show.

The set design (Tainui Tukiwaho), lighting design (Katrina Chandra) and sound design (Eve Gordon) play a huge part in making it work. This birthday party is set in an open plan whare while a storm rages outside. How the designers depict the difference between the lounge and the kitchen are two gorgeous circular rugs, lounge on the right, kitchen on the left, bathroom and rest of the house out back (offstage). I really rate this design because it is seemingly simple, yet so complex for the cast to play while staying in light. Yet another testament to their skill, I reckon.

Because the set is focused on these two spaces, there’s a scrumptious black space the characters have to move through to go from one place to the other. At first I thought this was a mistake, or at least something that just wasn’t to my taste, but then I realised the potential when the director (Edward Peni) gets Julie’s character Keri to have an almost mental collapse whilst taking the dishes back to the kitchen. How epic.

So often as people we quite often are wearing that mask we’ve created for ourselves and yet, in these small moments, like packing up dishes, we’re overcome with emotions the mask tries hard to hide. These moments are few and far between but this set design is able to capture it completely! The only thing is that I’d love to see it continue throughout the show.

The intruders are Hihi (Joe Dekkers-Reihana) and Kate (Tuakoi Ohia). With such a stellar cast the cohort is ever-present, not only with the audience but also with each other. It’s both beautiful to see but also so crucial with a show touching on so many deep and heavy topics.

I’m a strong believer that a work can only go as dark as it has gone light. This cast, writer and director are able to do that. In moments of absolute tension – say being held at gunpoint, something you’d reckon is most serious – I’m finding myself laughing. An argument between Rangi and Keri, yet I’m laughing This cast holds onto us as an audience.

We’re taken into the depths of what bad mental health looks like yet we are able to trust the process, and not once are we taken too far. Left to sit uncomfortable? Sure. But always there is an undertone of hearty love, throughout the writing, direction and acting.

The Sun and the Wind is a showing of love, jealousy and what can fester in between. The ability to create that is a very powerful thing. 

Audience care:
Although trigger warnings are not necessary for most of this show, moments of The Sun and the Wind contain graphic reference to suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviour. The Cast will offer time for whakatau to decompress and sit in collective debrief after each performance. Mental health contact details are listed in the programme.

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A profound evocation of despair, loss and grief that inevitably erupts with humour

Review by John Smythe 29th Jul 2023

By the time Tainui Tukiwaho’s latest play, The Sun and The Wind, reaches its conclusion, my thoughts and feelings are in a cyclonic swirl. When it comes to writing about it, where do I find an entry point and – given the twists and turns that keep us enthralled throughout its 70 minutes – how do I avoid spoilers?

In his programme note, Tainui says, “I began writing this show as an escape from my children during lock down.” That was in the evenings. He doesn’t mention that during the daytimes he was also writing Hemo is Home with his tamariki. It premiered in March at his home base, Te Pou Tokomanawa Theatre in West Auckland. Does that set a record for creative output during lockdown? Were his two projects competing with each other? Speaking of which …

Aesop’s fable The North Wind and the Sun tells of how the sun and wind compete to see who is stronger by making a traveller remove his jacket. Its moral is that persuasion beats force. The way Hūkerikeri tells it within this play, her focus is on the jealously the Wind feels at the Sun’s superior strength and how she wasted years wishing she was more like him.

Te Aka defines hūkerikeri as “roughness, tempestuousness, storminess, turbulence (of wind, rain or the sea)”. But our first impression of Hūkerikeri is of a kind and gentle kuia caring for her ‘locked in’ husband, Rangi – named, presumably, for Ranginui the sky father, home of the sun.

Their poignant opening scene unfolds in eloquent silence, sitting cosily at the dining table as winds and rain rage outside. She feeds him his dinner and nibbles at hers, followed by cake … They are wearing party hats. It’s someone’s birthday. A third place is set, complete with a sparkly pointy hat, for someone who may or may not arrive. A shallow biscuit tin is the table’s centrepiece.

Julie Edwards imbues Hūkerikeri with profound humanity of every hue, including short bursts of temper. Tainui Tukiwaho’s Rangi is also impeccably modulated and full of surprises. His programme note goes on to say, “I gave myself the challenge of making the hostage genre surprising again and I wanted to find an interesting way to use a gun in a show … I am excited to see if audiences think I have achieved this.” Yes, he has.

The gun, a slim revolver, makes its appearance quite early and its purpose is unpredictable until it’s not. But who is the hostage, captive to whom or what? This is but one of the questions to conjure with after the final blackout.

A mixtape is playing in the background and when her favourite Smokey Robinson song drifts out a suddenly animated Hūkerikeri turns it up and sings along,, beautifully:
  … if you feel like lovin’ me
  If you got the notion
  I second that emotion …
It will emerge that back in the day, Hūkerikeri and Rangi were the Sonny and Cher of the local pubs. ‘You are my Sunshine’ is another fave that resonates throughout.

The mood and tempo are dynamically changed by the arrival of a young couple. Joe Dekkers-Reihana’s Hihi (which means ray of sunshine) is more wannabe than wicked in attempting to fulfil the purpose of their visit, despite the urgings of his heavily pregnant partner Kate, played by Tuakoi Ohia (who wrote and performed in Kōpū which also premiered at Te Pou then took Wellington’s Hannah Playhouse by storm to open this year’s Kia Mau Festival).

While Ohia and Dekkers-Reihana are clearly anchored in the truth of the circumstances that have brought Kate and Hihi to this place on this day, the buffeting they experience within the swirls of fact and feeling as the evening progresses is compelling portrayed. As for the slow reveal of the Hūkerikeri, Rangi and absent guest backstory – we are left to guess where exactly that reality resides.

It is the surfacing of each character’s underlying emotions that makes The Sun and the Wind so captivating. Inevitably humour bursts from the deep feelings as the riveting pūrakau of despair, loss and grief caused by jealousy and its unintended consequences plays out. And with the prevalence of media stories playing the blame game in the mental health space, it feels especially relevant and resonant.

Astutely directed by Edward Peni, his fearless use of stillness and silence elevates the power of the more overtly dramatic moments. Tainui Tukiwaho’s simple set design places the action on and between two circular floor coverings, one warm and cosy (the dining room), the other cold and geometric (the kitchen), appropriately lit by Katrina Chandra with a well-used shadow space between. Eve Gordon’s subtle sound design completes the production value package.

Having been necessarily circumspect with the story details, let me be explicit now: don’t miss The Sun and the Wind, it is a profoundly entertaining play.

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