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September 11, 2017 | by  | in Theatre |
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The Night Mechanics

Māori theatre is among the rarest areas of theatre that an amateur student, such as myself, comes across. Currently I am pursuing the ultimate goal of becoming an actress, within the means and ways of Victoria University’s theatre department — means and ways that have room for considerable improvement to include more Māori and Pasifika kōrero. It was a privilege and a non-negotiable opportunity to partake in the audience experience of watching the preview of a Māori play recently.

New Zealand playwright Mīria George’s The Night Mechanics mixes theatrical forms — comedy and drama — with the hearts of young diverse actors, passionate about Māori worldview and deep issues relevant to society today. The play was held in the comfortable Heyday Dome of Bats Theatre (the nurturing place for new NZ performances) amidst a unique yet simple set design. At first glance I was expecting the play to rattle my Māori taringa with the classic speech and dialogue I’d usually hear in theatre, however I was pleasantly surprised and highly appreciative of the plentiful use of te reo Māori with careful pronunciation from all the actors.

George has artistically highlighted the reality of the long-term effects of climate change and global warming, and stresses the importance of tino rangatiratanga, iwi, whānau, hapū, and kaitiakitanga. Water is extremely scarce in a somewhat post-apocalyptic NZ where the heat is unbearable and an impoverished people desperately fight for survival day upon day. Rivers are no longer a delicacy, springs have dried up, and the ocean, a distant memory. Thriving wahine toa, Hine, is up against “The Water Company” — a villainous, powerful corporation that has taken control over water supplies throughout the whenua. Hine forms a bond with a woman who does not belong anywhere, and rekindles a relationship with her self-appointed mayor of a brother, to fight for what belongs to their people, te tangata o Aotearoa. Desperate to uphold the legacy her matua left behind, and with the long coming help of a traitorous preacher, hot headed Hine stands up to the grotesque Darren — the man in charge at The Water Company headquarters — and brawls him for tino rangatiratanga.

Each actor executes the uniqueness of their character with enticing energy and intensity that takes your imagination far away from the four walls of the Heyday Dome, finding yourself on the hot grounds of Hine’s home. George has worked hard to compose a beautiful ensemble between the actors, every transition of scenes is smooth, and no one leaves the stage the entire time.

 

ART - Theatre - Caption- Night Mechanics. 2017. Meg Mann.

Night Mechanics. 2017. Meg Mann.

 

There is a diverse range of ethnicities of the actors cast in the play, five to be specific, made up of Māori, Samoan, Sri Lankan, Cambodian, and Malaysian. Considering The Night Mechanics is a Māori play, it is realistic that the cast is mostly brown. I think that this (and I always do) is helpful for the audience’s visual connection — in addition to some of the costume design that really portrays the definition of a mechanic, a post-apocalyptic “Māori mechanic”. Alongside the magical and transformative impact ethnicity and costume can create, the set design is beautifully simplistic, giving balance to an intense use of lighting.

My initial reaction to The Night Mechanics is YES! More light needs to be shone on the deep issues this play addresses. The play is clearly influenced by the world, the Aotearoa we live in today — fighting for clean rivers, oceans, and tino rangatiratanga. George stresses the continuous impacts of colonisation on Māori — my people, the loss of identity as one people, as iwi, hapū, and whānau; mass industrialisation upon our precious papatūānuku and tangaroa, rampant impoverishment, but especially the loss of our tino rangatiratanga. As the actors agreed in a post-performance discussion, at this rate, we really are heading towards a future just like that of the night mechanics. Climate change is legit! It’s also legit being educated about it too. So do your research. Did you know that by 2050 there is going to be more plastic in the oceans than fish?! Appalling.

As a Māori theatre student who likes to think she’s quite “woke”, I encourage my fellow tauira to go see this unique performance, engage in the issues, and continue to spark conversations waking everyone else up. Especially those of you who identify as non-Pakehā and are looking for a place in the theatre industry, there are other styles of theatre besides classical theatre, like Māori theatre — and Māori are natural performers, everyone knows that.

 

— Nā Lateshia Marie McFarlane, Ngāti Porou

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