Raw, real and rewarding [by Sharu Delilkan]
John Broughton’s epic one-man play Michael James Manaia (MJM) machine guns you with emotion right from the get-go.
I can safely say this is the most raw and rewarding play we’ve seen for a long time.
Our friends at Q had warned us that the show had had a profound effect on audiences. To which we replied arrogantly “We’re hardened theatregoers” – and boy were we wrong and we now can confess that we’re not as hardened as we thought.
But it all made sense when I realised that the show was being presented by Taki Rua Productions, who are known for challenging audiences with their unconventional and unpredictable productions.
The story takes us from a carefree youth growing up in a small New Zealand town – idyllic apart from a fractured father-son relationship – through adolescence, war, love and family.
After premiering at Wellington’s Downstage Theatre in 1991, it was a privilege to be able to see the new vision of this heart-wrenching one-man show that has been performed at the Edinburgh Festival and across the globe.
Te Kohe Tuhaka aka TK (Awatea, The Brothers Size) really shows his versatility taking us through multiple characters, with zigzags of emotion and experience.
Awatea Shines Brightly [by Sharu Delilkan]
You knew the writing was on the wall the minute you walked into the theatre. I’m of course referring to the beautifully chalked letters that 'panoramically' filled the backdrop of the entire stage. So dramatic, intriguing and utterly effective was this device that you could not help reading some of the letters while the show was going on.
But on to the show.
Having produced both The Pohutukawa Tree and The End Of The Golden Weather, Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Awatea completes Bruce Mason's classic trilogy of powerful New Zealand dramas. And it is everything it promises to be – thrilling, heart-wrenching, morally tough - a fiercely realistic study of betrayal and disillusionment.
Awatea, based in and around Ngati Porou country, is the story about a remote township of Omoana that revolves around their ‘hero’ Dr Matt Paku (Te Kohe Tuhaka) who left the East Coast and now owns a successful practice in Auckland. Proudest of all is his old, blind father Werihe (George Henare), who basks in this success via his son's letters, read to him by the no-nonsense local postmistress Emma Gilhooly (Geraldine Brophy). Every New Year's Eve, Matt comes home and the whole community celebrates. But things are different this year: Gilhooly has devastating news which she must keep from old Werihe at all costs.
Brooding tale of Brotherhood [by James Wenley]
The Brothers Size is a play that ignites the senses.
Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney has been burdened with all sorts of praise, the voice of his generation, the savior of American theatre. He grew up in Miami’s deprived Liberty City housing projects, and has worked with such prestigious theatrical institutions as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
What he does isn’t anything new, he uses a potent mix of the language of now – the language of the street, hip hop – to tell a universal story in an engaging way. That this play is receiving plaudits in an Auckland production by Silo Theatre is a testament to that. Good storytelling wins.
On a strictly narrative point A to point B level, the tale is a simple one. It’s about two brothers and what unites and divides them. Oshoosi Size (Pua Magasiva) is the ‘black sheep’, released from prison and taken into the care of head-to-the-ground elder brother Ogun (Jarod Rawiri), who tries to instill the value of hard-work and get him back on the right path. The presence of ex-con Elegba (Te Kohe Tuhaka), who ‘looked after’ Oshoosi while he was in prison, threatens to disturb the Size brotherhood.
Underneath this story are biblical and mythical echoes. McCraney has layered the story with elements of the West African Yorùbán Mythology – Ogun, for example, is the name of the God of Iron, Creativity and Violence, adding deeper metaphoric elements.