Tiki Taane Mahuta - Taki Rua Productions
19 May 2017, Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North
Reviewed by Tania Kopytko
Tiki Taane Mahuta premiered in Palmerston North. It is an amazing, cross-genre show entering new territory – a wonderful two-hour music gig by the accomplished Tiki Taane; a full length dance narrative using contemporary and aerial dance, hip hop, haka and mau rākau, which tells the story of two generations; beautiful videography evoking the ancestral past; rolled together in a concert with a strong kaupapa/message about life.
The show opens with a striking video on one of the major sponsors, Ngāi Tahu, telling the story of Ngāi Tahu and the long journey of reparation culminating in a successful treaty claim. It shows the successful cultural development and business enterprises Ngāi Tahu have achieved with the claim resources. Culturally and politically it places a stake in the ground, showing to Māori and all New Zealanders that positive changes are happening, there is a strong future. Then the show begins.
Tiki Taane, supported by musician Sam Trevethick, standing in front of the stage, beautifully performs powerful and tender songs from his albums, “Past Present Future” and “Into the World of Light”, plus beautiful, eerie, atmospheric music. The range of music and instruments shows his remarkable ability and performance power. But this is a music gig with a difference!
These songs are reinterpreted through dance/aerial work and a video, as a cross-generational story about love, conflict, violence, drugs and needless death, through car accident. Courageous choreographer, Tānemahuta Gray, saw a story concealed in Tiki Taane’s songs – “like a Tohunga Whakairo uncovers their carving within a piece of wood”. His performance work has a compelling message. He has used a diverse movement vocabulary; showing his own wide range of skills, with creative contribution from the dancers.
The third dimension is the video, which features the majestic and arresting Uekaha Taane Tinorau, Tiki Taane’s father. He plays the filmed role of the tupuna rangatira/ancestral figurehead, supported in the film by the stage cast. The film allows the drama to slip back and forward in time, across the whakapapa, and embeds the spiritual and cultural dimension of the story.
The versatile cast of nine dancers (Paige Shand, Sharn Hoani Wi Te Pou, Te Arahi Easton, Manuel Solomon, Taniora Rangi Motutere, Tiana Lung, Jared Hemopo, Mark Semple, Brydie Colquhoun), through contemporary dance, aerial work and contemporary haka, express the narrative which begins with youth violence and then slips to the innocent and joyful seaside dance to Tiki Taane’s “Summertime”. Distraction on the drive home turns into a fatal car accident, leading to guilt and addiction and a generation born without a parent. These children grow up with the family pain of that conflict and loss, but sadly in turn create their own violence and conflict. At times this story gives great poignancy to Tiki Taane’s songs, such as the “I’ll be home soon” phone message at the beginning of “Always On My Mind”, while the lonely lover is tortured with the guilt of her dead partner who will never come home. The delicate “Starship Lullaby” becomes an aerial dance lament to the dead parents and a celebration of new life. The story is not all doom and gloom, however. There are playful and gentle lyrical love dances. The powerful contemporary mau rākau sequences, a strong call for knowing who you are through your culture, was wonderfully performed by the cast. Hearty congratulations to the dancers who maintain a dramatic two-hour physical performance.
This dance drama is a complex story. Despite illustrating the families’ whakapapa in the video, I still found it difficult to follow the generational characters. Some of the dance pieces struggle to fill a full song. Perhaps at times they could have appeared as shorter “action vignettes” within the song, leaving the audience with some breathing space to contemplate the dramatic narrative and also enjoy Tiki Taane’s performance.
That said, it is clear this show has great popular appeal and speaks so relevantly to today’s Aotearoa New Zealand – sadly a society suffering far too much from family violence, needless death from accidents and family meltdown from P and other addictions. The message from Tiki Taane Mahuta is strong and is encapsulated in the closing rap by Tiki Taane – we must care for life and our humanity and live our lives to the fullest; be one with the universe and Io.
The diverse Palmerston North audience were moved. They rose and gave Tiki Taane Mahuta a standing ovation. Have a great and successful tour. Make a difference and change minds – kia kaha.
In the programme, the words of key sponsors Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu:
“Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei - For us and our children after us”.