REVIEW: Hikoi (Auckland Arts Festival)

Kali Kopae plays Nellie Miller.

Mōrihariha [by Sharu Delilkan]

Kali Kopae plays Nellie Miller.
Kali Kopae plays Nellie Miller.

Witnessing a theatrical premiere is indeed a privilege but when it’s local with historical ties, such as Hīkoi, and it’s a world premiere makes for an even more momentous occasion.

Writer Nancy Brunning’s cleverly crafted words come alive as soon as the show begins. Her ability to reel in the crowd with her sharp-witted dialogue and repartee, incites crowd reaction instantaneously.

The Miller family is headed by mother Nellie (Kali Kopae) and father Charlie (Jamie McCaskill), who are astutely matched by the flawless performances of the young ensemble cast playing their hard case teenage children i.e. Janey-Girl (Aroha White) May (Kura Forrester), Joseph (Manuel Solomon), Pearl (Ngakopa Volkering) and Bubba (Amanda Noblett). Completing the cast is none other than Wesley Dowdell who is perfectly cast as Charlie’s bestie Barry, providing the perfect foil for all the ‘dramas’ taking place within the Miller whanau.

Brunning’s award-winning play about a Māori family at a social and cultural crossroads, in the 1970s and 80s, definitely resonates with the audience – evident by the craning necks as they get sucked deeper into the intriguing storyline.

Hīkoi is a typical case of role reversal where kids teach their parents and in this instance it’s the quick-witted quintet that dishes up home truths to their folks because they are fed up with their parents’ silences, secrets and incessant quarrels, which ultimately results in them leaving home to find their own answers.

Besides celebrating Māori and their culture, Hīkoi provides insight into the historical effects of political change in Aotearoa. It also talks about Te Reo as a language and it’s need to be preserved in this country, which is beautifully woven into the complex family issues that the Miller whanau battles throughout.

Wai Mihinui and Jaimee Warda’s set design is nothing short of dramatic. Without giving too much away all I’ll say is that the ‘static’ set ends up being exceptionally versatile, demonstrated by its elements’ varied utility.

Jane Hakaraia lighting design complements the set impeccably. Her intelligent projections on the set really establishes the tone of each scene, heightening the theatrical experience even more. Mara TK’s sound design works fabulously well with Hakaraia’s lighting, adding to the overall authenticity of the scene changes.

It’s not often that a writer can direct his or her own work effectively and objectively but that’s exactly what Brunning has done, and that’s definitely no mean feat!

Hīkoi is certainly a great choice to open the Auckland Arts Festival – may audiences flock to make it’s world premiere a rip roaring success.

Hīkoi is presented by Auckland Arts Festival and Hāpai Productions and plays at Rangatira, Q Theatre until 8 March. Details see Auckland Arts Festival

SEE ALSO: Theatreview review by Dione Joseph and Metro Magazine review by James Wenley 

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