Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

Politics of Place and Extended Family in Taki Rua Productions' 25th Year: Strange Resting Places and Te Karakia

Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

Politics of Place and Extended Family in Taki Rua Productions' 25th Year: Strange Resting Places and Te Karakia

Article excerpt

In his book Decolonizing the Stage, Christopher Balme observes that Maori theatre is 'working towards a theatrical concept that is part reality and part utopia'.1 This Utopian vision is to create an original theatrical form, a 'new kind of perceptual "frame"' for performance, informed by Maori tikanga (customs). No company has explored the potential of this alternative frame more than Taki Rua Productions, a Maori theatre company which celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2008 by presenting two productions at the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts: Strange Resting Places by Paolo Rotondo and Rob Mokaraka and Te Karakia by Albert BeIz. In this essay I analyse these productions in the context of two core Maori principles: turangawaewae,2 meaning place to stand or home place; and whanaungatanga, which can be loosely translated as extended family (whanau), kinship or shared culture. In contemporary Maori society, familial relationships are implicitly linked to tûrangawaewae (the place where you come from), both are key factors in a perception of an individual's identity, and both are also important themes in Strange Resting Places and Te Karakia. Taki Rua's strategic plan is governed by principles of whanaungatanga, and these principles take on new significance in the context of theatre. In discussing the 'Maori renaissance' of the 1980s, Balme notes that 'white New Zealanders ... had to accept that the Maori language had now established itself in the sphere of theatre'.3 Not only have Maori concepts become important themes in some New Zealand plays, they are also changing the ways theatre is practised in New Zealand. As kinship is inherently linked to one's place of origin, these plays dramatise intersections between places and cultures in relation to authences' perception of New Zealand's post-colonial history. Gilbert and Tompkins argue that postcolonial histories attempt to tell the other sides of a story and to accommodate not only the key events experienced by a community ... but also the cultural context through which these events are interpreted and recorded.4

Both plays are set in the context of historical events crucial to the development of New Zealand cultural identity, allowing new interpretations of these events. Strange Resting Places narrates encounters between Maori soldiers and Italian civilians during World War II, while Te Karakia, set against the civil disruption during the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand, considers internal cultural divisions.

Taki Rua Productions: Whakapapa5

The concept of turangawaewae in the theatre of Aotearoa/New Zealand is implicitly linked to the history of Taki Rua. Established in 1981 by Downstage as an alternative venue for more experimental work, it was named the Depot Theatre because of the close proximity of its original premises to the main bus depot in Courtenay Place. By 1983 the Depot became too expensive for Downstage to maintain and was about to close when a collective of theatre artists formed to re-constitute the venue as a theatre programming only New Zealand work. The New Depot, as it was initially titled, was run on socialist principles as a highly politicised space. I was part of this collective in the mid-1980s and recall the controversy in 1984 when director William Walker proposed to stage Seamus Quinn's A Street Called Straight. Although this play had been intensively workshopped in the national Playmarket script workshop, it was written by a recent Irish immigrant and concerned the troubles in Northern Ireland. While Walker passionately argued that the themes of the play fitted perfectly with the Depot's anti-colonial political focus, others argued just as passionately that it did not qualify as a New Zealand play and therefore would taint the Depot's New Zealand-only policy. The production went ahead, gaining critical success, but a more bitter division occurred in the same year over the cancellation of rehearsals for a production of Mervyn Thompson's Songs to Uncle Scrim, because Auckland feminists had recently accused Thompson of being a rapist. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.