30/09/2023 - 14/10/2023
Written by: Jamie McCaskill
Rehurehu - Muroki
Ngaru Hōu – Seth Haapu
Soldiers of song – Kane Parsons
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
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
Te Po: Jamie McCaskill
Billy: Cameron Clayton
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
Comedy , Music , Theatre ,
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.
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