Big shoes to fill, right on Q [by Sharu Delilkan]
Roimata Fox admits that the prospect of filling actor Miriama McDowell’s shoes, as Marea Reka in Raising the Titanics, was extremely daunting.
“It’s amazing what she does. I’ve been watching her since I was 15 and have always looked up to her,” she says.
The 23-year-old actor has since gotten over those initial jitters and is in her element embodying her new role.
Having grown up in Ruatorea, a small town close to Gisborne, Fox says she has taken a few liberties with her east coast character to make it her own.
“Marea is Ngati Porou to the core and so am I. That’s all I know and that’s all I can draw from because that’s basically who I am.”
In fact when she heard she had the role Fox packed her bags and headed back to Ruatorea to hang out with her aunties on a marae, as part of her research.
“I just watched their mannerisms, the way they talk and dress for two weeks. These aunties would look a million bucks even if they were just going out to buy milk.”
Harking back to a time when bands like The Quin Tikis and Maori Volcanics were in vogue and at the top of the charts, Albert Belz’s Raising The Titanics is a testament to the Maori Showbands of the 1950’s and 1960’s, that changed the face of New Zealand’s musical landscape and paved the way for future New Zealand musicians.
Being a hoodie and sneakers kind of gal, Fox says wearing beautiful dresses and high heels presented its own set of challenges, particularly since she never wore heels before due to her height – 5 ft 11 inches.
“I’ve been practising wearing heels while vacuuming the floor at home. They’ve become so comfortable that I now run across backstage with them and I hardly even notice them anymore. I’m looking forward to seeing my family members’ eyes pop out of their sockets when they see me all dressed up.”
Although Fox was part of an all girl band, for Smokefree Rockquest in 2004, she says it’s been interesting trying to hit the high notes. However working with musical director and fellow actor Tama Waipara has made the experience “a dream. He is so patient. He makes sure we are able to take our time to get where we need to go. It’s great working with someone so dedicated and talented. It’s also great because he’s also a Gizzy boy so we have a shared history,” she says.
Fox admits that the only reason she decided to audition for the play was because she received a call from SmackBang Theatre Company’s producer Tainui Tukiwaho.
He says “I met her again recently on the set of Super City and I really liked her playfulness and energy. That’s why I asked her to try out but I didn’t know how well she could sing. She definitely undersold herself by saying ‘I can kind of sing’.
“I also like the way she’s turned the character into her own. Roimata has such a specific personality, informed by growing up on the east coast. It’s great to see her use that along with her intelligent acting style.”
Fox realises that being one of the two leading ladies she can’t afford to let her guard down.
“From the minute we get on stage, we have to be aware of everything including our posture. Because we’re feminine divas and have to make sure everything is perfect 100 per cent of the time.”
Raising the Titanics is presented by SmackBang Theatre Company and plays at Q from 7th until 17 September. More information at Q Theatre.