BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

08/06/2016 - 18/06/2016

Kia Mau Festival 2016

Production Details

Money can’t buy you happiness. No wait – maybe it can.  

Sister Nurse Hinemoa and her siblings, Magazine Magnate Atawhai and Prodigious Businessman Petera, were raised in the glow of privilege – enjoying a whakapapa of sailing on the lake, gin with their Indian Tonic Water, Coppertone on tanned Māori skin and a seemingly endless summer. 

Long after their childhood at the Lake, the race for wealth and empire have splintered the whanau and now too their children. Daughter of Hinemoa is Child Scientist Kiwi and son of Petera is Champion Gymnast Te Rāwhitiroa. Of course Atawhai never had children, she prefers the company of her award winning horses. 

Cousins Kiwi and Te Rāwhitiroa have grown up estranged from one another. 

Finally the siblings have been called together – the Sister Nurse, the Magazine Magnate and the Prodigious Businessman – they must agree to expand the empire – even if it means destroying the world in the process. 

THE VULTURES has been inspired by conversations of privilege, clean water and iwi Māori navigating through a post settlement world.  Mīria delves into ideas of wealth, crafting a family of privilege who helm an empire that dominates in the Western World.  Clean water is a myth and water merely a tool to collect the waste of the world.  THE VULTURES is a story of greed and destruction. 

In search of a new sound for her writing, Mīria created THE VULTURES in the midst of addiction.  A David Lynch addiction.  More specifically – first time watching of TWIN PEAKS.  Binge-watching.

Did we mention THE VULTURES is a comedy?  Well… we’ve been using the phrase, ‘indigenous satire’.  Māori tragi-comedy maybe? 

In February 2015 the new works platform, Pūtahi Festival, presented the first Workshop Production of the play.  A year later Tawata are presenting the Premiere Season at BATS Theatre, as part of the Kia Mau Festival returning to Wellington in June 2016. 

THE VULTURES is performed for 10 shows only: 
BATS Theatre, Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
Wed 8 – Sat 18 June 2016
Book here 

Click here to see three shows in the Kia Mau Festival for $45! Please note the Season Pass does not include Shot Bro – Confessions of a Depressed Bullet 

To read more about the Kia Mau Festival click here  

Atewhai:  Awhina Rose Ashby
Hinemoa:  Carrie Green
Kiwi:  Hine Parata-Walker
Petera:  Natano Keni
Tola Newbery:  Te Rāwhitiroa 

Music Design:  K*Saba   
Lighting Design:  Natala Gwiazdzinski
Set Designer:  Tony de Goldi
Costume Designer:  Sopheak Seng
Stage Manager:  Karena Letham
Marketing & Publicity:  Brianne Kerr
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller
Design Photography:  Louise Hatton
Production Photography:  Aneta Pond
Cantonese Kaiako:  Janis Cheng
Spanish Kaiako:  Maarire Brunning Kouka 

Theatre ,

Powerful piece of theatre pulls out all the stops

Review by Ewen Coleman 11th Jun 2016

The second play in the Kia Mau Festival opening this week at Bats Theatre is Miria George’s The Vultures, a fascinating look at family feuds and disputes over land issues. 

Two sisters and a brother of a wealthy Maori whanau have assembled at the family homestead to discuss expanding their family empire.

Eldest sister, media magnate Atawhai (Awhina Rose Ashby), and brother, prodigious businessman Petera (Natano Keni), want to use money from the family trust to buy the neighbours’ properties and create one of the largest farming conglomerates in the country. [More]


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Stylishly entertaining and thought-provoking

Review by John Smythe 09th Jun 2016

The title, The Vultures, refers to two of the three siblings who have inherited a farm that includes a lake. Having grown up in a luxury they took for granted – sailing on the lake, bathing in a seemingly endless summer of gin with Indian Tonic Water and Coppertone on tanned Māori skin – the siblings scattered to pursue their careers. Now the lake is toxic, there is no-one left to work the land and they have flown back in to decide what to do with the rotting carcass of their asset.

The opening image is superb: redolent of removing the covers from abandoned furniture, it may also be seen as lifting a veil or ripping the scab off a weeping sore. There is stylised posturing throughout to reinforce the vulture metaphor.

The self-appointed dominant ‘vulture’, black-lipped Atawhai clad in stylish riding gear, is formidably realised by Awhina Rose Ashby. A magazine magnate on an international stage, she may be struggling with migration to the digital age of publishing yet she is planning her autobiography and dreams of its becoming a feature film.

The crook-backed brother, Petera, whose feather collar and predatory stoop makes him most vulture-like, is also vulnerable to Atawhai’s mean streak. No wonder he has felt the need to prove himself in global business. And having fared badly through the Global Economic Crisis, he is now poised to either take off in a new direction or recover lost ground with a vengeance. Natano Keni negotiates Petera’s varied states of being with alacrity and a non-naturalistic comic sensibility.

The senior sibling, Hinemoa, is a nurse and fundamentally caring. Her signature is needed if ‘progress’ is to be made and it is this quest, led by Petera, that gives the play its narrative spine. Carrie Green makes Hinemoa’s vacillation compelling, stuck as she is between wanting to recover the closeness of whānau and having her every move challenged by her highly intelligent micro-biologist student daughter, Kiwi.

Believing her uncle and aunty are as toxic as she knows the lake to be, Hine Parata-Walker’s Kiwi – just 18 but academically well beyond that – is a force to be reckoned with at home yet clearly in need of love and affirmation in her (cellphone) interactions with her outside world.

Her 15 year-old cousin Te Rāwhitiroa, Petera’s son and a champion gymnast, is the innocent who may or may not succumb to his father’s value system. Tola Newbery makes us fear for his future as he quietly stretches, flexes and seeks equilibrium, and takes pride in his ability to speak Spanish and Cantonese to visitors from South America and Hong Kong without any awareness of the implications. (So convincing is Newbury as a teenager, I have to check the Theatreview record to confirm he graduated from Toi Whakaari in 2010!)

The performances, then, all richly embody the play’s strongly delineated characters. The design elements are splendid too: Toni de Goldi’s brooding set, featuring a well-utilised sloping boardwalk; Natala Gwiasdzinski’s lighting, K*Saba’s music and Sopheak Seng’s very stylish costume designs (which are not those shown in the publicity image).

The dialogue is highly articulate and often expositional as the siblings remind each other of the past, And as with the emblematic actions, it includes linguistic flourishes with lines like, “You and I, sister, we make contentious battle for this empire.”

Impressed as I am with this stylish production (informed, apparently, by “a David Lynch addiction”), there are aspects that puzzle me. Given how much is made of the lake being toxic, I am puzzled that this is not a major concern for those involved when someone falls into it. Or if the near-drowned character’s subsequent behaviour is directly related to exposure to toxins, that and the karmic irony of it need to be made clearer.  

The big picture comes through clearly: run-off from the farm has killed the lake so feeding from it is dangerous; a neighbouring property that is dense with native bush is up for sale; Awhina and Petera share a vision of “the biggest dairy empire in the southern hemisphere” … And when I think it through, I believe I can deduce what happens in the end. But rather than wrestle with ‘what just happened?’, I’d rather be hit with a ‘get-it’ moment that reveals what the deal was and who has been shafted by whom, how exactly and why. The ‘how exactly’ remains elusive.

In her programme note, Mīria George writes, “The Vultures is a korero with its heart set on the creation of a matriarchy – where the powerful voice of wāhine Māori rule the world. A world that is far from perfect – coloured by the greed and destruction of both Papatūānuku and a whānau known as The Vultures.”

As I see the ending, however, the presumptuous patriarchy (a younger brother assuming power by gender) is the winner, at least in the short term. The “destruction” of ‘Earth Mother’ is inevitable. But we only get the slightest hint that the sisters, left with nothing, may now be free to reconnect and develop a new set of values that might be implemented through a matriarchy.”

It’s up to us, then, to muse upon that possibility. Meanwhile The Vultures adds stylishly entertaining and thought-provoking value to the Kia Mau Festival. 


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