Two Guitars

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

30/09/2023 - 14/10/2023

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

23/03/2024 - 13/04/2024

Production Details

Written by: Jamie McCaskill
Directed by: Carrie Green

Billy and Te Po are two Māori men aspiring to be musicians. Te Po is doing it the hard way as a gigging muso, while Billy is in a corporate job lacking the confidence to make the jump. When a pānui is released calling for Māori musicians they both apply but are turned away because they don’t fit the strict criteria. In the same position, they decide to work together to secure the gig.

Two Guitars is a musical journey that examines the third generation of Māori who have grown up without te reo and tikanga and find themselves lost. After all, it only takes three generations to lose a language.

30th September – 14th October 2023

Wednesday • 6.30PM
Thursday • 7.30PM
Friday • 7.30PM
Saturday • 7.30PM
Sunday • 4PM

Adult • $50; Early Bird $45
Concession* • $41; Early Bird $39
Tertiary Student • $29
Secondary Student • $27
Dinner + Show • $95



‘You be a You Māori. And I’ll be a Me Māori. And Billy will be a Him Māori.’ Billy and Te Po are two pretty meke musicians about to smash the biggest night of their lives. But backstage, the super tūturu competition they’re in has them thinking: ‘umm… are we Māori enough for this gig?’ Award-winning playwright Jamie McCaskill is joined by Golden Guitar winner Cameron Clayton in this musical journey that explores the world of third-gen Māori who’ve missed the reo bus and find themselves a bit lost.

This play has power because it explores very deep human concerns that have a huge effect on lives and identities’ — Tania Kopytko, Theatreview
‘Comedy is a great vehicle to convey deeper issues and this is well exemplified in Two Guitars by Jamie McCaskill’ — Tania Kopytko, Theatreview
‘Meaningful, funny, challenging…everything that good theatre should be. Recommend.’ — Audience feedback

Circa One
23 Mar to 13 Apr 2024
Preview 22 Mar
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm, Fri – Sat 8pm, Sun 4pm

Run time 1hr 15min, no interval.

Te Po: Jamie McCaskill
Billy: Cameron Clayton

Rehurehu - Muroki
Ngaru Hōu – Seth Haapu
Soldiers of song – Kane Parsons

Production team
Director Carrie Green (Ngāti Porou/Kāi Tahu)
Production Manager Marshall Rankin
Lighting Designer Talya Pilcher
Set Construction Harvey Taylor
Set Designer Ian Harman
Stage Manager/Technical Operator Belle Harrison
Costume Designer Ian Harman
General Manager/Artistic Director Kate Louise Elliott (Rongowhakaata)
Business Manager Martin Carr
Associate Director Alex Wilson
Marketing Manager Jacob McDonald
Outreach Coordinator Leona Revell
Box Office Manager Mikel O’Connell

Marshall Rankin
Alyssa Jalen
Matt Kilsby-Halliday
Belle Harrison

Comedy , Music , Theatre ,

75 minutes

Comedic yet moving, timeless yet topical, challenging yet lyrical

Review by John Smythe 25th Mar 2024

The standing ovation comes with a woosh. There is no doubting Two Guitars has hit us in the feels, on our funny bones and where we respond to the power of music. It deserves to be a hit.

Anyone of any age, stage, gender or culture who has wrestled, or is wrestling’ with the ‘me’ vs ‘we’ dilemma, who has felt resistant to the expectations of some dominant group – parents, teachers, peer groups, bosses, religious leaders – will readily relate to this play. As individuals most of us separate from the ‘mother ship’ to chart our own course. We seek our own ‘tribe’ by way of consolidating our identity and that can bring fresh demands to conform, even when we feel we’re rebelling. The quest for ‘self’ vs responsibility to others is a classic theme that will always resonate.*

Jamie McCaskill explores this territory with comedic yet moving ingenuity by bringing two singer-musicians together, on diverse quests. While both are from the third generation of Māori who’ve ‘missed the reo bus’, they come from very different starting points and are at very different stages on their ‘being Māori’ journey. They may even be heading in opposite directions. Yet the magic of musical harmony transcends their differences and makes them more, together, than they are alone.

Cameron Clayton’s Billy is a corporate team leader from Ōtautahi Christchurch. Brought up Pākehā, he is at the start of claiming his Māori heritage through learning te reo. He loves the world that’s opening up to him, especially embraces the joys of waiata and would love to become a full-time musician.

Jamie McCaskill’s Te Po, from Whanganui a Tara Wellington, is a gigging muso. He has a lot of reo and speaks it well but couldn’t, as he puts it, use it to tell someone how to change their car tyre. He is resistant to the pressure he feels to be Māori in a particular way and resents having to perform a prescribed set, rather than his own original songs.

Billy and Te Po were put together to compete on a TV talent show which they’ve won. Now they have to do a Radio interview then perform live at a big event that could be a game-changer for their musical careers. There is a lot at stake that puts demands on them as a duo while other elements in their individual lives intervene and demand their attention. This is excellent dramaturgy, developed through a premiere season at Palmerston North’s Centrepoint Theatre then redeveloped for this Circa Theatre season.  

The show starts with Billy and Te Po’s superb rendition of Muroki’s ‘Rehurehu’, which won them the competition, as a lead in to the radio interview. The lively but unseen Host, voiced by Pehia King, slips in and out of te reo with great fluency. Te Po is equal to that while Billy gets a bit lost, despite being somewhat blissed out by what’s happening. It’s all about promoting them and tonight’s big gig, but there are signs that Te Po has issues with what they have become part of. He’s not cool with the rules of the game and he misbehaves.

In their flash dressing room, over the hour leading up to their live performance, it becomes apparent that Billy is in a loving relationship with Sam who has sent him a beautiful bunch of flowers, while Te Po is delighted his estranged daughter Manaia is coming to the show. Meanwhile the Stage Manager, Kendall, voiced by Kali Kopae, keeps asking via the intercom for Te Po to come and see her which he, assuming he’s in trouble over the interview, is resistant to. The comedy around whether or not this is a two-way conversation adds a ‘Big Brother’ vibe: do they have privacy?

Complications arise that hit Billy with a moral dilemma regarding Sam and reveal the character flaw behind Te Po’s inability to be a responsible parent. There is also a demand they take a video call from the CEO of the TV channel that set up the competition. As Kiritowha, Regan Taylor plays it smooth, confident and finally dismissive.

Is Te Po a self-centred wanker or is he throwing down a legitimate wero? Does the stand he is taking risk Billy’s chance to hit the big time? As for Billy’s dilemma, is he being selfish too? We are not fed with answers to these questions. We identify and ask ourselves, what would I do?

Inevitably we sit in judgement because that’s what we do as humans being. Our responses will depend on where each of us is on our own journey. As revealed in the publicity, Te Po’s repeated refrain is, “You be a You Māori. And I’ll be a Me Māori. And Billy will be a Him Māori.” He delivers a compelling list of what might make someone Māori – and it costs him. It costs them both. Or does it?

Everything comes together in an upbeat ending that engages all our faculties and senses. And yes, we do get to hear Te Po’s own song; ‘Soldiers of Song’ by Kane Parsons. The other songs seamlessly integrated into the narrative are composed by Cameron Clayton (‘Small Town Life’), Jamie McCaskill (‘It’s Up To You’; ‘Secret Room’) and Seth Haapu (Ngaru Hou).    

McCaskill and Clayton are superbly centred in their roles, navigating their separate agendas and bourgeoning relationship as award-winning musicians and singers with unerring authenticity. Ian Harman’s clever set design and Talya Pilcher’s lighting, operated by Hāmi Hawkins, allow the action to move fluidly thanks to the fluent direction of Carrie Green who ensures the dynamics of the unfolding story keep us rivetted.

Two Guitars is timeless yet topical, challenging yet lyrical. If you haven’t already booked your seats, do it now. You won’t regret it.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

*Two homegrown examples spring to mind:

  • A repeated “whaddarya!” resonates in the finale of Greg McGee’s Foreskin’s Lament, which confronts Kiwi rugby culture in 1970s NZ;
  • Bruce Mason’s The Hand on the Rail opens with “Ko wai koe? Ko wai tō tūpuna? Kei hea tō kāinga? Who are you? Who are you forebears? Where is your home?” It focuses on the fate of Rangi: the conflicting value systems of his Māori father and Pākehā mother drive him from a small town to the big smoke seeking his Pākehā tribe, only to be rejected by them.  


Make a comment

Transcendent harmonies, complex characterisations, moving and theatrically fulfilling

Review by Maryanne Cathro 24th Mar 2024

Curiosity had me offer to review Two Guitars. I am so grateful for that curiosity as it is one of the most entertaining, funny and thought-provoking pieces of theatre I have seen in a long time. In 80 minutes, it winds the universe into a ball, keeping us engaged and involved from the opening song to the last moment.

Two musicians have been paired up by a Māori talent show, which they have won – two men that would never cross paths in their normal lives. Billy (Cameron Clayton) is a corporate team leader from Ōtautahi who is in a relationship with Sam. Te Po (Jamie McCaskill) is a gigging musician from Te Whanganui-a-tara with a rocky relationship with his daughter Manaia. We meet them in the time leading up to a big TV showcase; from radio interview to the dressing room.

With lots of laughs and some wonderful waiata, this show also tackles several deep themes with grace and respect: what makes a Māori a ‘proper Māori’ – Billy’s largely Pākehā upbringing, Te Po’s more immersed world as an itinerant musician, or the showcase of the TV show arguably trying to commoditise Te Ao Māori? It’s about being othered – the unresolvable tension between putting your best foot forward to represent your minority, or being allowed to be your authentic, imperfect self to a potentially judgemental audience.

The theme that resonates the most for my husband and me is relationships. Billy’s with Sam, Te Po with Manaia, Billy and Te Po with each other, their relationships with their music and the production crew. The expectations from all of these are piling upon them in the hour before they hit the stage. Billy’s need to remain in control and Te Po’s determination to avoid being controlled weave a knot around the stage, slowly building behind the humour and the music. 

Ian Harman’s set captures all of these themes – the black woven panels that resonate with harakeke weaving both validate and commoditise Toi Māori, while underscoring the weaving strands of two lives. Talya Pilcher’s masterful lighting and Harman’s set are a pairing with none of the conflicts of the characters. Instead, they embody the musicianship; harmonising perfectly throughout, culminating in a magical transformation when the broadcast goes live.

Huge kudos to Cameron and Jamie for their outstanding performances. Their singing, playing and harmonies are transcendent. Their characterisations are complex in the way real people are, while also being theatrically fulfilling. Director Carrie Green has done a stellar job of conducting this piece of theatre like a maestro. 

Having wound the universe into a ball, the play masterfully unwinds enough of it to weave a satisfying and moving ending, that resolves nothing and everything at the same time.

The opening night audience give this show a standing ovation of such thunderous enthusiasm, we get a musical encore. I hope this show will have many encores to come.


Make a comment

Solidifies the importance of Te Reo Māori as the gateway to Te Ao Māori 

Review by Hariata Moriarty 24th Mar 2024

Two Guitars explores the idea of what it means to be Māori.

The show begins with a joyful, choreographed rendition of Muroki’s ‘Rehurehu Ana’  by Te Po (Jamie McCaskill) and Billy (Cameron Clayton). The audience (including myself) happily cheers and attempts to sing along with the waiata. The powerhouse voices of the actors shine through and this energising introduction sets the scene for an engaging, dynamic and entertaining show.

We are introduced to the two players who have recently won a whakataetae (competition) as musicians and are now preparing to play a show.

Billy, an ex corporate baddie from Ōtautahi, is beginning his journey of reconnecting to this Māoritanga. Te Po, a Wellingtonian Māori musician has had enough of being categorised and would rather do his own thing – even if it could be deemed selfish.

When both characters face turmoil in their personal relationships, this pressures the duo’s music performance and relationship with each other.

Two Guitars will resonate with any Māori, or tangata Tiriti for that matter, who is coming to terms with their positionality in society. On a deeper level it implores us to examine our agreed social contracts and the multi-faceted complexities that stem from beginning the decolonisation process, as we are all at different stages of this process – from the likes of those beginning their reo journeys and entering the waharoa to Te Ao Māori, through those, who can comfortably navigate both worlds, to those, who can recite their whakapapa all the way back to Io Matua Kore!

Despite the light hearted humour, captivating waiata and some paced jumping-on-the-cue dialogue keeps the audience on their toes.  If you carefully read between the lines it becomes apparent that this theatre show does what many attempt and holds up a mirror to society. Many of us will know a character like Billy or Te Po, in fact we may even share similar stories to these two.  

McCaskill and Clayton are powerful and commanding in their roles and their gifted musical talent seems effortless. The lighting (Design by Tayla Pilcher) and ambience of the production (Set and Costume Design by Ian Harman) easily transports the audience to the different settings of the world our characters inhabit.

I also must mihi to the crisp and clear recorded voices of the Radio Host (Pehia King) and Kendall the Stage Manager (Kali Kopae) as well as the video call mid performance from the big boss, Kiritowha (Regan Taylor) that illustrate how theatre can change, stay relevant in our technological word, yet not take away from the real life performance – and instead amplify it.

This was a pleasant experience for myself and my pāpā who had spent the day with whānau watching the senior kapahaka whakataetae a rohe regionals. This solidifies for myself the importance of Te Reo Māori as the gateway to Te Ao Māori and its assertion is ever so important in these polarising political times.

Hei whakamutunga tāku kōrero i kōnei. Anei he mihi kau atu ki a koutou ko ngā kaiwhakahaere (Sonia Hardy), kaiwhakaari, kaitohu (Carrie Green), kaimahi koutou katoa i whai mahi i runga i te kaupapa nei. He miharo tō koutou mahi whakaari! Kuru raki mō ngā whakaaturanga e toe ana.


Make a comment

Comedy belies complex questions of identity and belonging

Review by Tania Kopytko 02nd Oct 2023

Comedy is a great vehicle to convey deeper issues and this is well exemplified in Two Guitars by Jamie McCaskill (Ngāti Tamaterā). Saturday 30 September at Centrepoint Theatre saw the premiere of this brave, powerful play which was met with a strong audience response, who demanded an encore of a song at least.

The good-paced show appears quite straight forward: two actors on stage who sing beautifully and are characters who are poles apart. However, their dialogue is punctuated by voice overs from radio, a theatre intercom system and a television producer via video. As the story unfolds this cleverly creates contrasts and adds to the humour, as well as adding external forces to the gathering tension.

Jamie McCaskill stars as Te Po, in his own play, with Cameron Clayton (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whangai) as Billy. McCaskill is known for his performance skills such as in the wonderful The Māori Sidesteps, which he founded. Cameron also has a fine and long performance pedigree as a singer and actor. Their harmonious singing skills are superb in this show and each of the songs is a gem in itself. Their acting skills are also strong including clear, well-paced and projected diction.

McCaskill is also known for his playwriting and comedy writing skills. This theatre work has some gems. But the comedy of Two Guitars belies a complex story of deep Māori and human conflicts of identity and belonging, encompassing all the insecurities and value judgements that accompany that. Who is Māori? Could some people be more Māori than others? If a person has not learned the language, or was not able to learn due to being prevented by the Pākehā system, or only knows some Te Reo, or is just embarking on their Te Reo journey, are they all valued as Māori in the same way? Who is making the judgements?

These are deep philosophical and somewhat painful questions for Māori society and individuals, but they are also universal. This play has power because it explores very deep human concerns that have a huge effect on lives and identities. Any country or culture that has been colonized suffers from this complexity of identity and weakening of traditional language and cultural practices.

The rise of modern society is also creating ‘modern standard languages’ which differ from fast disappearing traditional regional dialects and world views.  Then there may be class differences. A similar loss happens with migrants, when children may reject their parent’s language to ‘fit in’ and very often may later regret that decision.  This play has wide relevance and resonance in its specific message.

McCaskill adds other subtle layers to this complex question of “Who am I?” and “Who am I seen as?” Through the use of voice over characters, the more earthy, rural, jokey, working-class Te Po contrasts with the smooth-talking urban TV presenter and the somewhat pseudo world of TV and radio. This pseudo or mixed-up world is beautifully encapsulated in the opening number’s choreography, which happily and hilariously mixes haka motifs with disco and slick Motown style moves.

Billy is a very different, complex character. He is only beginning his journey to learn Te Reo and tikanga and he is gay. Clayton masterfully portrays Billy’s vulnerability and conflicts. The two are a highly unlikely character combination for a music competition performance duo. But it works beautifully for this plot.

The central plot issues are resolved well by the end, but Two Guitars also leaves us knowing that there are no easy answers to these complex issues and a lot of agony lies behind the laughter.

The work is enhanced by the selection of music used to punctuate and reinforce the story, composed by McCaskill and Clayton but also by Muroki, Seth Haapu and Kane Parsons. The set designed by Ian Harman, which alludes to the interweaving of harakeke, works well as the back stage dressing room and the flashy performance space. The lighting (Talya Pilcher) compliments this well.

May Two Guitars have a great, well supported season at Centrepoint Theatre and be a play that tours successfully in Aotearoa and internationally. It is not to be missed.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo