Court Theatre's first Te Reo play at arts festival

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31 Aug 2015

The first ever fully Te Reo production to be staged at The Court Theatre takes the form of a play written and directed by CPIT's Bachelor of Māori Language and Indigenous Studies programme leader Hohepa Waitoa.

Ngā Tai o Kurawaka: He Kura e Huna Ana (A treasure that's hidden) will be performed solely in the Maori language, as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival, from September 8-10.

He Kura e Huna Ana, a Maori language play written and directed by, centre, CPIT tutor Hohepa Waitoa, opens at The Court Theatre on September 8. Pictured with principal actors, left, Kihere Aumua-Jahnke, who plays characters Waitaiki and Hine, with Tyson Tangaroa, who plays Poutini, a pounamu guardian.

A 40 minute-long fusion of song, dance and visual story-telling, the play is set in two worlds. It follows the traditional narrative of a famous Maori legend about the origins of pounamu, which runs in parallel with a story about modern-day issues. It's about the realities of life and choosing whether to face issues and overcome them or to run away, Waitoa says.

The play explores the theme that like pounamu, every person has a story, and everyone and everything has a beginning. The trouble is, Waitoa says, sometimes we forget, or maybe we don't always know where we come from, which leads to an often painful cultural and spiritual disconnect from ourselves, each other and society.

"I come from Gisborne and the East Cape, where Maori culture is very strong, and I just assumed everyone had a strong cultural connection, but I've found that's not always the case. That's why we have some of the problems in society that we do, that disconnection with where we come from and who we are."

These issues are entwined in a creation story about pounamu's mythical guardian Poutini. This powerful taniwha kidnaps a beautiful woman Waitaiki, wife of Tamaahua, who pursues them all the way to New Zealand's West Coast.  As an enduring symbol of his love, Poutini turns Waitaiki into what we know as the pounamu found in our riverbeds.

A well-known haka leader, performer and tutor, this is Waitoa's first play on such a scale.

"It pulls together many aspects that I'm passionate about in Maori culture, including performance, language and legends. I see myself doing a lot more of this sort of thing, climbing up the hill behind the older more established writers." 

The Court Theatre's associate director Daniel Pengelly said he was proud to be working alongside CPIT's Te Puna Wanaka, the Maori theatre company Taki Rua and The Forge Development Season, to support and develop this emerging work.

"The Court Theatre is Canterbury's theatre and we are here to tell stories for, by and of Cantabrians. It is our honour and responsibility to help a full Te Reo story emerge in our space for the first time."