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

19/10/2021 - 23/10/2021

TAHI Festival 2021

Production Details

Four actors, ten playwrights, eleven monologues, sixty minutes.

Following a sell-out season of Batch last year, TAHI presents its new work, Whānau, a dynamic and poignant performance on what it means to be a family; featuring extracts from ten brilliant New Zealand solo shows:

Vela Manusaute (Island Mafia)
Felix Desmarais (HOME)
Rob Mokaraka (Shot Bro)
Jamie McCaskill (Not in Our Neighbourhood)
Toa Fraser (No. 2)
John Broughton (Michael James Manaia)
Emily Duncan (Eloise in The Middle)
Tom Scott (The Daylight Atheist)
Melissa Sutherland (Batter UP)
Nicola Pauling (She Danced on a Friday).

By agreement with Playmarket.

Performed by: Daniel Gagau, Emma Katene, Ngahiriwa Rauhina and Melissa Sutherland

BATS Theatre, The Random Stage
Tuesday 19 October, Friday 22 October, Saturday 23 October 2021
Full Price $18
Group 6+ $14
Concession Price $12

The Random Stage is fully wheelchair accessible; please contact the BATS Box Office by 4.30pm on the show day if you have accessibility requirements so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS. 

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19-23 October
A celebration of solo performance, TAHI is a five-day Festival at BATS Theatre dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo theatre from all around Aotearoa.
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Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr | Tues, Fri, Sat only

A rich, insightful and profound experience

Review by John Smythe 20th Oct 2021

It opens with projected images of diverse whānau accompanied by a gentle song about family love as the four actors – Daniel Gagau, Ngahiriwa Rauhina, Emma Katene and Melissa Sutherlandsettle in four very different chairs. In the hour-and-a-bit that follows they treat us to 13 exquisitely personified monologues by ten Aotearoa New Zealand playwrights, each offering a distinctive perspective on being part of a whānau/family.  

Despite the projection technology available, directors Sally Richards and Kerryn Palmer have chosen to let it all play out without any identification offered of who the actors are being, let alone from which play by what playwright. I doubt I’m the only one who’d have liked those details to be available in some unobtrusive form. But fair enough, it does work, theatrically, to have each wave of human experience simply wash over us.

(I have publicist Brianne Kerr to thank for emailing the actual running order at my request and where possible I’ve hyperlinked titles to full reviews or Playmarket information.)

It begins with a birth, or rather the moment of conception, energetically enacted by Emma in role as a bathing-capped sperm. The physical comedy is cleverly juxtaposed with sobering facts about how slim the chances were of this pregnancy happening let alone going to full term. A miracle indeed. (From the autobiographical HOME: The Hilarious Comedy About How I Nearly Killed Myself / A Play About How I Nearly Died But Didn’t Then Learned A Lot About Life Afterward by Felix Desmarais.)

Another birth is preceded by a car chase: young Māori man chased by cops with a bad outcome written all over it. Ngahiriwa contains the swirl of emotions powerfully as he relives the experience through to its surprising conclusion. (FromMichael James Manaia byJohn Broughton.)

The first of a number of child’s-eye views comes with Melissa’s embodiment of a young Samoan girl being woken up by loud voices in the living room, discovering what’s happened to her father down at the pub and witnessing her mother’s staunch response. There’s a twist in the tale of this clearly formative experience. (FromMelissa Sutherland’s own play, Batter UP.)

Daniel gives us a delicious boy’s-eye-view of arriving in New Zealand from “the Islands” in 1978. Touching on the family’s first year in Norfolk Street then going to Richmond Primary once he knows enough English, it ends on his tortured experience of having to give a pre-Father’s day speech starting, “My Dad is the best dad because…” Again there’s a twist that packs a poignant punch. (FromIsland Mafia byVela Manusaute, who was born on Niue Island.)

At an easel, drawing stick figures which magically appear projected on the wall behind her, Emma personifies Eloise who lives with her mother, Karen (I’m guessing in Dunedin) and has to fly on her own to visit her father, Dennis, and “Aunty Lou” in Wellington. An insightful glimpse into how children cope with such circumstances.

Melissa follows up with Karen’s experience of being at home without Eloise and offers some telling observations about Dennis before revealing her own coping mechanisms. (Both fromEloise in The Middle by Emily Duncan.)

To explain how he comes to be half Ngāti Kahungunu and half Ngāti Pākehā with Michael James as his given names, Ngahiriwa regales us with the story of howMichael James Manaia’s parents met at the Victoria Palace dance hall while his dad was on R&R during WWII. It’s tagged with a good gag about how he got her Land’s End parents to accept her marriage to a ‘New Zealand native’.  

A dancing segue finds Emma gorgeously infused with the ‘Fever!’ of ‘love’ for Billy, characterised by blistering fights and passionate making-up. When the inevitable happens, the idyll is over. Everyone’s lives go in different directions. It’s decades later that a letter arrives from a solicitor … and you will have to click on the link to my review to understand why, when Nicola answers a knock at the door decades later, she baulks and says “Margery” in such an unexpected tone. (From She Danced on a Friday by Nicola Pauling.)

Bookmarked with some fun schoolboy hand-shaking malarky, Daniel revisitsIsland Mafia in a playground scene about the difference between his lunch, embarrassingly delivered by his dad on a bicycle, and the palagi sandwiches Matthew has. Amid attempts to negotiate a swap, ideas about how fatherly love is proved are revealed.

Suffering from the heat and a pesky mosquito, Melissa’s Nana Maria tells her dead husband that today is the day she is going to name her successor, so they can be together at last. Turmoil is clearly on the horizon. (From No. 2 byToa Fraser.)

We are back to a birth scene with that of ‘Egghead’, hyperbolically described as an intro to the father’s account, enacted by Daniel, of a family trip to the beach. His wife, called ‘Dingbat’ by the constantly carping dad at the wheel of the car, anticipates, or is it motivates, a familial bout of car sickness. The threat of a drive to Australia traumatises ‘Egghead’ (the name Tom Scott got from his father, who he fictionalised as Danny Moffatt in The Daylight Atheist). It’s a shame Danny is not given his Irish accent to make this lively anecdote sing even more.

‘I See Red’ (Split Enz) brings Sacha Miller, 25, to the electorate office of Coromandel MP Todd, demanding his help to get her five kids back from CYF (Child, Youth and Family). Emma gives a blistering performance as this ‘own worst enemy’ woman whose desperation nevertheless elicits empathy, especially when we get a hint as to where it all began. (FromNot in Our Neighbourhood byJamie McCaskill.)

Ngahiriwa brings Whānau to a close by recounting the whakapapa of Bullet Bullihana, right back to the Musket Wars and through the Māori battalions of two world wars until now. This is fromRob Mokaraka’s autobiographical Shot Bro – Confessions of a Depressed Bullet which continues to be an extraordinary force for good in opening up healing conversations about depression throughout the land. The tip about turning the ‘black dog’ into a ‘black sheep’ is a good note to end on.

Each actor morphs into each role with total integrity. As an insightful glimpse into the multitude of ways families manifest themselves, Whānau is a rich and profound experience.


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