[It Couldn’t Happen Here]
The work of Tawata Productions is notable for showcasing topical issues. The kōrero of Bless the Child is no different. This dark, albiet vital work reveals the world that we’re part of, where our tamariki are not always protected by their whānau.
Written by the acclaimed Māori writer Hone Kouka, Bless the Child shines a spotlight on this somewhat uncomfortable, necessary and very Kiwi social issue.
Kouka’s triple-storylines are clever, mysterious and believably harsh. We follow an ambitious politician Khan (Regan Taylor) – eager to gain ‘party profile’ by halfheartedly defending the apparently guilty and distraught mother Shardae (Carrie Green). Khan’s overly supportive wife Hinemoa (Moana Ete) is almost an accomplice to this cruel and unusual scheme. Kouka’s ability to illustrate the couple’s trials and tribulations with their newborn, ingeniously exhibits how human we all are; irrespective of ‘class’, wealth or respectability.
All eight characters are beautifully crafted with dense, complex and believable identities. Standouts are Regan Taylor as Khan, Ani-Piki Tuari as Robinson and Carrie Green as Shardae.
Scotty Cotter does a fine job of acting as Iraia for well over an hour, trussed up and abused, with minimal dialogue. His complex story is shocking and intriguing.
The three accusers that take Iraia hostage are convincingly played by Shania Bailey-Edmonds (Pohe), Maia Diamond (Amanda) and Lionel Wellington (Taylor). Bailey-Edmonds also deserves special mention. Besides her outstanding performance, it was great to discover post-show that this is her professional stage debut, fresh out of college.
Director Mīria George’s ability to affect the audience is highly commendable. She manages to create immense discomfort, causing many of us to shift around uneasily in our seats. George also skillfully utilises Mark McEntyre’s hugely dramatic set on every axis, providing vignettes of space for the contrasting storylines.
Hohepa Waitoa and K*Saba’s use of a baby’s cry, juxtaposed against total silence, was extremely effective. However, we did find that the background soundscape occasionally overpowered the dialogue. Perhaps this was just a balance issue that presumably can be easily rectified.
This play is a tour de force, a grand tour but also a grueling one. However, at 2 hours and 20 minutes, including interval, this show feels unnecessarily long and could benefit from some tightening and edits without compromising its poignancy.
Bless the Child is memorable for all the wrong reasons in its necessary subject matter, and for all the right reasons of its fine production values, acting, directing and heart. These words need to be said, and Bless the Child delivers them in no uncertain terms.
We won’t forget this play and we hope it won’t just ‘facilitate discussion’. Our earnest hope is that there’s societal change around the corner and that this play’s essence will become ‘obsolete’: as an intriguing and tragic milestone of the past, a passage of NZ history that never should have happened. A pivotal point for the senseless suffering of those most cherished, dear and vulnerable.
A solitary resolution to this play would discredit the multitude of factors involved. It is a credit to the writing that this isn’t done, or even attempted. Hence the quote: “We are good peeps, it’s just that we have a few issues to sort out.”
Bless the Child is presented by Tawata Productions and plays at Q until 12 March as part of the Auckland Arts Festival