Waiwhakaata - Reflections in the Water

Online, Global

26/03/2022 - 27/03/2022

Auckland Arts Festival | Te Ahurei Toi O Tāmaki 2022

Production Details

Waiwhakaata-Reflections in the Water 
Online access here


A return to ancestral origins and legacy. Mystical and magical beings. One man’s journey of self-rediscovery.

Having lost touch with his Māori heritage, caught up in the rat race of urban humanity and drifting further from his roots, Rehua takes us on his personal journey towards healing and redemption. A life-altering decision changes the pathway, guiding his return to the whenua and waterways of his forbears. Steeped in history, emotion, and an inherent connection with patupaiarehe, the ancestors guide Rehua as his identity resurfaces while learning to integrate his past with his present self.

This year marks the 200th year anniversary of the Matakitaki Pā battle, which is explored and commemorated in this work.

So it was important to us that if we were to tell the stories of Eddie’s whakapapa-Waiwhakaata, it is only right that the voices telling these stories are the whānau who whakapapa back to Waiwhakaata.

Eddie Elliott- Choreographer

“I believe this work was meant to be made from the people, for the people and to the people that have space for growth and on-going desire to learn about their whakapapa. I know that I am on that journey. This doesn’t reflect the final stages of my journey as I am only beginning. I will probably be on this journey my whole life, and I know everyone is on different stages of that journey, and that’s the best part.” ‘Mā te haere ngātahi e takahia ai te tōroa o te ara.’  ‘By traveling together a long journey is achieved’.

Cian Parker- Co-Writer/Dramaturg

“It has been a pleasure working on Waiwhakaata. It is such an insightful opportunity to watch this beautiful piece come together over the different development stages. Exploring the amalgamation of dance and theatre, to tell the story of Waiwhakaata, has been fascinating and exciting. I am so lucky that Eddie invited me along on the journey of making this stunning show. 





DIALOGUE/WRITER: Niwa Milroy, Cian Parker


MĀTAURANGA MĀORI ADVISOR: Associate Professor Tom Roa

PRODUCER: Lance Loughlin 

TAONGA PŪORO: James Webster

COMPOSER: Alistair Deverick, László Reynolds



STAGE MANAGER: Abbie Rogers 

SOUND OPERATOR: Priscilla Frame


Brydie Colquhoun - Whata

Chrissy Kokiri - Tūtekapua 

Sean MacDonald - Pou 

Carl Tolentino - Older Rehua 

Toa Paranihi - Pepe

Faith Schuster - Puhi 

ACTOR: Lezharn Avia-Elliott - Younger Rehua 

UNDERSTUDY: Madison Tumataroa, Isope Akauola

VOICE OVER & CHARACTER Niwa Milroy - Tūtekapua & Pepe

Rodney Whanga - Pou

Te Aurere Firmin - Puhi

Tamara Elliott - Whata

Te Rongopai Murray - Older Rehua

Alistair Deverick - The Cuzzy bro

Lezharn Avia-Elliott - Younger Rehua 


Te Aurere Murray-Haiosi

Sioe Murray-Haiosi


Caroline Bindon

Jared Jones

Blinky Elliott


Jinki Cambronero

John Rata


Jezay Elliott

Charlie Elliott 


Jeremy Murray

Music , Maori contemporary dance , Digital presentation , Dance , Commercial dance ,

60 mins

Epic Te Reo Māori physical whakapapa opera.

Review by Lyne Pringle 28th Mar 2022

To introduce the online version of Waiwhakaata, Associate Professor and Kaumātua, Tom Roa (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato) provides the whakapapa for the story we are about to witness. He tells of the impacts of an attack on Mātakitaki Pā by Nga Puhi who invaded from the north and the devastation that the, European introduced, muskets wrought. The creators of the work state: ‘This year marks the 200th year anniversary of the Matakitaki Pā battle, which is explored and commemorated in this work.” 
Kaumātua Roa is pleased that the story is being told in a different way to carry it forward into tomorrow.

Eddie Elliot has set an ambitious task for himself, to lead a sterling band of collaborators in the telling of an important story from his Iwi’s past. His key collaborator is Cian Parker, who is the dramaturg and co-writes with Niwa Milroy.

The work is script driven, including Te Reo and English. The strong and expressive dancers each play a specific character, alongside the voices of actors – each of whom are ‘whānau who whakapapa back to Waiwhakaata’. 

Waiwhakaata translates as reflections in the water it is also the name of a healing spring situated in the heart of Elliot’s turangawaewae.

The cast are: Brydie Colquhoun and Tamara Elliott as Whata; Chrissy Kokiri and Niwa Milroy – Tūtekapua; Sean MacDonald and Rodney Whanga – Pou; Carl Tolentino and Te Rongopai Murray – Older Rehua: Toa Paranihi and Niwa Milroy – Pepe; Faith Schuster and Te Aurere Firmin – Puhi; with Lezharn Avia-Elliott – Younger Rehua with live voice and Alistair Deverick as The Cuzzy bro.

Elliot and colleagues manipulate their material skilfully. Their tale is told with, initially, gentleness and humour then with power and abandonment. The level of performance onstage is superb. Each of the dancers totally inhabit the complex world that is evoked. They weave their thread of the narrative with integrity and tenderness, physical characterisations are utterly embodied and compelling.

It is a great pleasure to view these artists relishing the challenges of the work.

The chorus of characters sometimes move in unison and sometimes as individuals. They hover, tease and cajole Rehua (Tolentino/ Avia-Elliott)  as he opens his ears and spirit to the forces and ancient voices of the patupaiarehe.

A whole magical world is evoked by the sound track of James Webster playing Taonga Pūoro onstage, augmented by a stirring soundtrack from composers Alistair Deverick and László Reynolds. Also contributing to this theatrical world building is the intricate, everchanging set and costume design from Dan Williams and atmospheric lighting from Jo Kilgour.

The dramaturgical/choreographic choice to lip synch and mime the voice overs of these characters, is the driving dramatic structure that the work is built upon.

This leads to long didactic sequences where words are double accented by the dancer’s movements.

Despite the meticulous detail with which choreographer, dramaturg/scriptwriter and performers have rendered their interpretations, there is a disconnect between ‘live’ physicality and recorded voice. For the viewer, tension arises between two contrasting temporal realms, one responsive to the moment the other frozen in a certain iteration.

Whilst the intent is to tell this important story precisely, perhaps there is potential to allow the words to speak for themselves.  Once each pairing, of voice and physical presence on stage, is established, words and movement could co-exist without being shackled to each other.

This would allow the choreography to extrapolate, more often, away from the dialogue into abstracted and poetic movement. 

The most successful moments, the ones that really punch emotionally and resonate imagistically, are where the choreography and the dancers launch away from the text to unleash their moves and vocalise this physical effort.

Eventually there is a sense of rupture, trauma and grief and a portrayal of how this is passed through successive generations causing dis-ease and disquiet. It is a testament to the performers that they so completely embrace this challenging emotional terrain.

The invasion scene is riveting with flailed limbs, bodies hurtled to the floor, expansively expressive gestures, excellent use of repetition and fearful people moving through space at full tilt. Ti rāukau from the set are used to powerful effect as the already potent mix of performance and production values shift up a gear to a stunning apex with brilliant use of traditional and contemporary elements.

In the closing stages of the work after this exhilarating climax, time is rewound in a very clever way. The ancestors retreat, suspended in the past, in some ways unreachable. This again tugs at the heart, as the work ascends away from pain, suffering and conflict towards reconciliation and healing.
A potent offering in today’s often fractured world and cause for celebration that these artists choose to portray a repaired future. 

Recently the three iwi involved in the Mātakitaki Pā siege, reconciled underneath a new waharoa with three significant pou. 

Waiwhakaata defines its own territory. It is like witnessing the birth of a new genre – epic Te Reo Māori physical whakapapa opera – if the balance between voiceover and physicality can be found, watch this rocket take off into the skies.


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