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Te Manawa - Hawaiki TŪ
10 June 2017, ASB Waterfront Theatre, Auckland

Reviewed by Merenia Gray



Te Manawa exceeded all my expectations. Hawaiki TŪ, led by Artistic Director Beez Ngarino Watt and co-produced by Kura Te Waati and Jenny Stevenson have advanced the authentic forms of Kapa Haka, voice, Polynesian dance, contemporary dance and theatre into a new space entitled; Haka Theatre.
The quality of Te Manawa is testament to their whakapapa and professional training in the arts of haka, poi, mau rākau, tii rākau, waiata, waiata ringa and contemporary dance. Beez and Kura come from rangatira stock. The audience knows it too.

Te Manawa tells a story of two tribes bound together by a negotiated truce. Aroha – love is the binding force between Koru ( Tiataharoa Maipi) the adopted son of  the Rangatira (Te Ora Pahewa) and Te Mauri, (Ngakirikiri Kershaw).

Jason Wu both writer and dramaturg has intricately crafted a story of war, voyaging, love, celebration, humor, jealously and tragedy. The talented Rawiri Paratene seamlessly narrates this epic story. He is the tahuhu – backbone of the story that marries time both present and past through the words of an elder to his mokopuna – we the audience. So sublime is his acting, that his rapport with his audience is as credible as his character is to the story. He reminds us to turn our phones off, before taking us on a journey back in time to our tīpuna who led the final wave of Polynesian migration some 2000 years ago.

The heartbeat – manawa of the work is the choreography, some of the best fusion of contemporary and traditional Māori dance I have seen to date. Choreographers Sophie Williams and Edmund Eramiha are a talented duo and are no doubt in good company with the influence of Beez and Kura to steer them in the right direction. My choreographic highlight was the celebration dance prior to the tragic reveal of the plot due to puhaehae - jealously of a loved one.

The set juxtaposes large stone pou, like something you would see on Easter Island with floating material representing the ocean. Unfortunately the programme notes omit who designed the set. The music composed by Ani-Piki Tuari is superb as are the immaculate costumes by Hera Tumai and Muna Lee.

The creation myth represented in Haka - reminiscent of Maui: One Man against the Gods - opens the show with the unborn children of Rangi and Papa pushing their way into Te Ao Marama. A waka scene takes us into the new world and tremendous double long poi sequences are a stand out in the show. Quite by surprise we time-jump into haka boogie and haka wero without cringing, it works. This is where our audience starts to engage.They have captured our youth which is not an easy task.

Te Manawa is thoroughly entertaining fusing humor with tragedy that suits all ages and is a show that is for the whole whanau. We laugh, cry, sing and clap and love what we see. It is a celebration of Matariki. It will do just as well in schools as it will in main theatres around Aotearoa and overseas. The theatre, as Rawiri says, is full of Māori kanohi - faces. This is a show by Māori, for Māori that should be seen by more Pakeha. The pidgin Māori /English transliteration is fabulous – Rawiri is a master in speaking from one language to the other without a suspensive pause.

My only criticisms of this work are the voice of Tawera, (Marcus Reihana) the jealous son and protagonist of the plot. He is a powerful performer, but like so many of our young Kapa Haka performers, they lose their voices through inadequate training or overuse. Miking needed attention and from the circle the magic was taken away by seeing the sets moved by crew or performers.  Attentions to these details are essential in taking this work to bigger theatres if toured, and it should.

What really tops this production is the singing – we have Opera meet Kapa Haka. Te Manawa and Hawikii TŪ continue the legacy of quality Māori Theatre and are in in the same league as Waituhi - the first Māori Opera by composer Ross Harris and Witi Ihimaera. This is exciting stuff and I look forward to seeing where to next.

Kia kaha Hawaiki TŪ.


Te Manawa Review

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