Home Theatre REVIEW: The Haka Celebration Incident (Te Pou)

REVIEW: The Haka Celebration Incident (Te Pou)

REVIEW: The Haka Celebration Incident (Te Pou)


Pictures by Andi Crown

The Haka Celebration Incident explores a little-known act of resistance — when Māori activist group He Taua confronted College of Auckland engineering college students about their annual custom of performing a mock haka. For many years, Māori college students and lecturers had complained concerning the racist caricature, which engineering college students insisted was simply drunken enjoyable. However the nation was within the midst of change, and after 1 Could 1979 the mock haka was by no means carried out once more. 

Written and directed by Katie Wolfe, the present loved a sold-out season in 2021 and is at present on a six-centre nationwide tour. I reviewed the present throughout its premiere, making this my second viewing. Coming together with me to Henderson’s Te Pou theatre was my good pal Morgan Dalton-Mill (Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara), who was seeing it for the primary time. We kōrero concerning the present and its influence.

Anuja: We’re each College of Auckland alumni, though we studied there about 40 years after the notorious haka celebration incident. Had you heard about it earlier than attending the play?

Morgan: Āe — we coated it in one among my favorite college papers, Māori 130G, as a part of a broader kōrero about Māori resistance towards the Crown. In a approach it was becoming that I realized about it on the grounds the place the incident unfolded. I hadn’t heard about it earlier than then, regardless that in my final yr of Historical past at highschool we studied the colonisation of Aotearoa. Did you study it at highschool?

A: No — I hadn’t heard about it earlier than college (by way of a number of throwaway references in a lecture). I don’t keep in mind being advised about He Taua, although, which makes listening to their voices on this present all of the extra necessary. 

After I first noticed the present, it was on the sprawling stage of the ASB Waterfront Theatre. You talked about that the theatre at Te Pou has the scale of a wharenui. There was a common ambiance of welcoming everybody into that area, permitting them to decide on and settle into their seats earlier than the play started about 10 minutes after the scheduled begin time. How did the stage, and bodily area extra broadly, influence your expertise of the present? 

M: The Tokomanawa theatre has a excessive ceiling, with two ceiling panels that meet the place the pou tokomanawa in a wharenui can be, and an enormous quantity of naked ground area. So getting into the area instantly made me really feel as if I used to be in a wharenui like these I’ve been to and stayed in. I assumed this was acceptable as a result of the wharenui is the place necessary kaupapa is mentioned, such because the kaupapa on the centre of this play. 

I not too long ago went to the Kiri Te Kanawa theatre at Aotea Centre to see an opera and I discovered the ambiance extraordinarily totally different. On the opera we began precisely on time, regardless that individuals have been nonetheless making their approach to their seats! There was extra of a separation between the viewers and the performers because of the conventional stage setup on the entrance, which is what you count on from the opera. How did you discover the Tokomanawa theatre in comparison with the ASB? 

A: I discovered the present highly effective on John Verryt’s set on the ASB, however presumably extra so on his set right here. Katie Wolfe described Te Pou as “a dynamic area very just like the Matatini stage” through which the play is “ideally suited to shine”, and I agree. 

One of many members of He Taua, Miriama Rauhihi-Ness (performed by Roimata Fox), says the intention of He Taua in going to confront the engineering college students was to “occupy an area”. Being smaller than the stage at ASB, I had a extra vivid sense of who was dominating the area and who was being pushed out. We noticed the engineering college students rampaging by way of it, driving house their sense of entitlement: to the college, to the town, to Māori tradition. We noticed the present forcing them and He Taua to share that area, as they’re lined up aspect by aspect to recount their recollections of the incident. And we noticed the editor of the college journal interview Ben Dalton (Kauri Williams) barely off to the aspect, as if to replicate Ben’s marginalised perspective — earlier than Ben took centre stage to handle the racism perpetuated by our establishments. These establishments had been lurking there invisibly all alongside and Ben was calling them out. 

M: I agree with Katie too. The stage was an area with a grid on prime of it relatively than a conventional stage, so the actors weren’t restricted to performing inside the boundaries of a set or hidden behind curtains. I attended Te Matatini this yr and that stage affords a lot potential. There’s no top restriction and there’s so a lot room, permitting kapa to create patterns and shapes of their haka brackets utilizing numerous actions and ranges. This play embraced that potential.

A scene I assumed mirrored a strong use of area was when the He Taua members have been interrogated by the Police. They stood spaced out in the back of the room dealing with the viewers, whereas the 2 Police stood on the entrance however with their backs to us. Because the members recounted their tales of Police brutality, they stepped ahead into the sunshine. When the Police responded to every member, they stepped in direction of the again of the room. 

I favored how the area may very well be wherever: the Police station, the engineering faculty, AUSA home, somebody’s kāinga or a extra liminal area. Because the actors portrayed multiple particular person, you would additionally simply observe their transitions between “characters” as all they needed to do was change their accent/tone of voice/tempo/posture, as a substitute of the entire set. 

A: I agree; the Police scene was painful to look at. The best way we may solely hear the voices of the Police whereas they confirmed us their backs actually made me consider the facelessness of racism. It’s not simply an interpersonal subject; it’s embedded in our societal buildings. 

Your remark concerning the quite a few characters brings me to the verbatim fashion of the present. Its script was compiled from interviews Katie Wolfe carried out with numerous individuals impacted by the incident, and their phrases are straight voiced onstage. What did you consider this system? Did it make the occasions really feel extra genuine to you? 

M: Completely. I didn’t know this was verbatim theatre after I was watching it however I seen that among the characters had issues like stutters and totally different accents which made the actors’ performances extra practical. Now that I do know concerning the approach, I believe it’s a strong and necessary software for this play. Listening to these individuals’s actual phrases helps what I take into account one of many necessary kaupapa of the present, which is to extend consciousness and schooling about this occasion. Experiencing the story reside added a dimension {that a} TV documentary wouldn’t have — I felt just like the particular person was proper there explaining the state of affairs to me.

Permitting these truly concerned in He Taua and the haka celebration to share their views on (and in) their very own phrases revered the mana of every particular person represented within the play. In my opinion, that’s extra impactful than paraphrasing individuals’s phrases, which might undermine their lived experiences because of the potential for misunderstanding their views. What did you assume?

A: I utterly agree that utilizing their authentic phrases revered the mana of these concerned. I additionally agree with the documentary comparability. I don’t assume you would splice collectively contrasting views as successfully onscreen. You may lower from the phrases of He Taua to these of an engineering scholar, however you couldn’t make them share the identical bodily area. 

I’d by no means watched a bit of verbatim theatre and I assumed each actor carried it off impressively. There was a scene through which Lauren Gibson switched quickly between about three totally different individuals and you would inform immediately who was talking. The gadget lent the present a way of immediacy and, predictably, a really human aspect to the dialogue. It preserved each um and ah, in addition to the humour that may creep into individuals’s accounts of even fairly severe occasions. I’m pondering of Miriama and Hilda Halkyard-Harawira (Nī Dekkers-Reihana) laughing about driving a motorbike to scope out the engineering college students’ location. Had been there any moments, humorous or severe, that caught out to you?

M: As we mentioned, the Police scene hit me laborious. I had two realisations throughout it: I hadn’t heard about this side of the incident earlier than; and it was horrifying how not too long ago this violent and unwarranted interrogation had occurred. Nī Dekkers-Reihana’s efficiency significantly affected me. Nī was stoic whereas retelling Hilda’s story, however was crying too (to which I responded by crying myself!)

Miriama’s phrases firstly additionally hit house: “Being Māori is one thing nobody can take away from you.” Regardless of the persevering with trauma of colonisation — all of the lack of land, of tradition, and (not utterly) of te reo Māori — Māori are nonetheless right here and nonetheless resisting. For many who whakapapa Māori, you might be Māori. I’ve been on a haerenga with my taha Māori ever since I used to be in main faculty and I do know firsthand what it’s prefer to really feel whakamā about being Māori. By means of awhina and tautoko from whānau, buddies, lecturers and others, I’ve embraced my whakapapa and I’ll stand steadfast within the data that I’m Māori, it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.

A: We will’t discuss concerning the present with out speaking concerning the kapa haka! The kaiako kapa haka/kaitito haka was Nīkau Balme, who composed one of many haka carried out. There was some nice comedy flowing from the engineering college students’ butchering of the haka, however the one on my thoughts is certainly the ultimate haka composed by Nīkau, He Taua. It was highly effective, too, to see some viewers members carry out a haka in response.

M: That haka was a standout. Seeing it stuffed me with awe and satisfaction. I’m no skilled in kapa haka or te ao Māori broadly, however I assumed He Taua was a beautiful instance of a haka with kaha, ihi and wehi. It was at full quantity and the singing was out of this world. I loved watching the taiaha used accurately throughout this haka in comparison with the opposite parody haka by the engineering college students. I used to be additionally thrilled to see Nī lead elements of this haka. It was a shifting approach to end a shifting play — I used to be in tears for thus many causes afterwards.

The Haka Celebration Incident performs Te Pou Theatre 1-Eleventh June 2023



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