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March 3, 2008 | by  | in Theatre |
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Te Karakia

Te Karakia is the first time I have ever been to a show in the International Arts Festival, and I’m very pleased to say that I’m not at all let down.

I was totally captivated by this riveting and dynamic production. The tale of growth, feeling and humanity was told by a man who clearly knows what he’s doing, and coupled with a confident and experienced cast and crew, Te Karakia is the leader of the pack so far this year as an exciting and engrossing new New Zealand work.

The play is ultimately a love story between a Pakeha man and a Maori woman and follows the various trials of the play’s central characters, Matthew and Ranea, superbly played by Tim Foley and Miriama McDowell. The action is set at various points in the past, from rural Waikato in the 60s to the infamous Springbok tour of 1981. We are also introduced to the immediate family members of the main characters. Calvin Tuteo plays the fiery Tohu, while Paul McLaughlin portrays Matthew’s somewhat lonesome father. Donogh Rees also joins the cast as Matt’s stringent and matronly grandmother, Elsbeth. Several supporting roles are filled by Mark Ruka. All are wonderful performers.

Our immediate point of entry into the play is when the pair are very young, and nostalgic references to the currency conversion of the 60s indicate that the play is a story about New Zealanders, for New Zealanders. Emphasis is placed upon the significance of race-relations. The cultural differences between the youths are highlighted at the beginning of the play as the young flirters try to make sense of one another’s different cultures. Zap to the future and the pair find themselves on opposite sides of the Springbok debate (being the argument over whether NZ should allow a racist country to play rugby on its’ soil). The rift which now separates them is a product of their individual relationships to the idea of race, and as representatives of Maori and Pakeha the solution to their conflict is to overcome this very difference.

Tony De Goldi, Stephen Gallagher and Jennifer Lal are clearly a dynamic design team. Lal’s lighting assisted in setting an emotive, yet unobtrusive, tone. While a bit loud at times, Gallagher’s sound was haunting and often sad. De Goldi’s set was mostly wooden with a trail of stones leading down the traverse stage, creating for the audience the connection with rural New Zealand which was felt by the characters. Seating the audience in traverse also hinted at a rugby stadium, echoing the setting of the Springbok Tour, but also suggested that the audience were on two opposing teams, much like the characters of Matt and Ranea.

This is some of the highest quality New Zealand work about, and I suggest anyone who can afford it should see it. Also, for those of you who may be interested, Tim Foley, also known as Mark from Shortland Street, gets his kit off in this show. Yep, full frontal.

Te Karakia
Written by Albert Belz
Directed by David O’Donnell
At Downstage Feb 27 to Mar 4

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