Waiora: Te ū kai pō – The Homeland

Twenty years ago, Hone Kouka wrote a play for the New Zealand International Arts Festival, set in the 1960s called Waiora. It toured nationally and internationally for several years afterwards and has been staged in places as diverse as the UK, Japan and Hawaii. It is studied in universities and high schools.

Waiora is being restaged in Christchurch at the Court Theatre and I spoke to playwright Hone Kouka about the play. He describes it as “an immigrant story”, specifically that of his own family who moved from north of Gisborne to the Catlins, later settling in Rangiora.

Hone Kouka
Playwright, director, screenwriter and producer Hone Kouka (image supplied)

One of the key phrases for me, was my mum said a few times that it felt like we moved to another country. So it was a really interesting story of being like immigrants in our own country. And yes there were other Māori there… but even so for her going from a community that was predominantly Māori to a community that wasn’t was a major shift.

And my family eventually settled in Rangiora and have pretty much been there for the last 30-odd years. So that’s pretty much the basis of my family, and that’s where the story came from. My dad was a saw miller, and I just wanted to pay a homage, to a degree, to them.

It’s really interesting being here in Christchurch. There are a lot of new immigrants here…

For this reason and others, Kouka feels that Waiora is as relevant now as it’s ever been.

There are a lot of reasons why I said yes to it happening down here, just engaging with the Māori community down here. There are a lot of great artists and yeah, just wanting more art in regards to all the changes that have happened to the city. And it’s great to be partnered with the Court Theatre and they are working really hard to try and engage with Māori here which is just fantastic.

One of the reasons it’s being done here at the Court was that 20 years ago it was done here as well, at the old Court Theatre…

He’s hopeful the play will encourage people, Māori particularly, to discover theatre.

Waiora
Waiora: Te ū kai pō – The Homeland. (image supplied)

Lots of Māori I know would never have been to the theatre before. This (play) is a really great example of something that’s travelled around the world and is lauded over there and bringing it back for our people… It’s been a great experience to be back here.

It’s just an art form that Māori don’t usually associate with and that’s really what it comes down to, and what I’ve found is lots of the shows that I’ve put on around the world, and around New Zealand, once Māori turn up they go, oh yep, this is ours… and it (Waiora) covers a whole lot of things in regards to us as Māori – there’s haka, waiata, reo all through it as well – and that’s one of the things that theatre, because it’s live, can do that books can’t. That you’re actually living and breathing it.

We’ve got kapa haka exponents in the play as well and I wanted to wrap those art forms up. So it’s really bringing together, the strength of Māori all over the place to tell a Māori story.

He goes on to explain that theatre offers something that other media can’t.

I spend a lot of my working world between the film and the theatre industry, and at the moment people want a live experience because they’re constantly in front of screens, and they want, actually, communication with other human beings.

…it’s not like a movie. You can’t talk through it. You can’t turn it over or anything like that – it’s right in front of you. You can hear them breathing. You can see them sweating and people really like that.

Kouka has worked on recent features such as Mahana (based on Witi Ihimaera’s novel Bulibasha) so I asked him if there is much of a difference working in film and working in theatre.

Yeah there is. I was the original screenwriter for it (Mahana) and then I was one of the producers. I prefer theatre to the film industry. And the biggest difference is money, to be honest, as it therefore goes through more people’s hands, and as an artist it’s more diluted – what you create. And that’s why I prefer theatre because you can say exactly what you want to say, how you want to say it, where you don’t have to abide by the finances and things like that. So it’s just more difficult that way.

I feel really lucky that I can move between the two. Mahana and Born to dance are two projects that came out recently that I worked on and I’ve got others coming up as well. So I’m just really lucky that that’s what I do – that I’m an artist who moves between both art forms.

Oh the horizon are another film project, travel, and more indigenous theatre.

Our company’s got a new feature that’s basically, you know the French film Amelie? – it’s a Māori Amelie. I wanted to write something that was light and really colourful, bursting with energy… so that’s where that came from. So I just had a Skype meeting with a financier in Denmark so that’s one of the most recent.

I leave on Saturday to do a theatre project to travel to Vancouver – our company’s got a co-production with 2 Canadian First Nation companies over there, It’s super active at the moment and it’s really on a big upswing, and that’s another reason why I wanted to engage with Christchurch and get the Court Theatre involved because globally there’s a lot of work happening – in Wellington it’s really on a big upswing and upsurge there so it seems to be  a good time to be involved in Māori work and travelling around the globe because they’re very open to it, which is great.

When it comes to libraries he is unequivocally in favour.

I didn’t start reading until I was about 7… and then I went crazy. I love them. For me, it gives me time to think because it’s quiet, most of the time, if that makes sense?

Libraries, they’re essential. They’re great meeting places. They are places of space and thought – that’s really what I associate with libraries. They should be one of the absolutely protected things that we have. It’s important for us to have knowledge and share it and at times the Internet – there’s not always a lot of depth to what you can gain from there – but you can from books. And also I really love the tactile nature of books. I really love them.

Waiora: Te ū kai pō – The Homeland plays at The Court Theatre 13 August – 3 September

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Further adventures with The Boy Who Lived

Harry Potter display
Harry Potter display, Flickr File Reference: 2016-07-26- IMG_5242

Cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneIt’s been about 18 years since I first met The Boy Who Lived. My little brother — he was about 9 at the time — introduced me to Harry Potter, and lent me the first few books. By book four, I wanted my own copy, so I bought it, and The Philosopher’s Stone too, with the book voucher Mr K gave me for our first wedding anniversary (it’s the paper one). When he saw what I’d chosen, Mr K said “what did you want that for? You’ve already read it!”  But I had to have copies of my own. And from book five on, I had my copies on advanced order at my favourite book shop.

I have the full set now, of course — the ones with those distinctive colourful spines that are so instantly recognisable as Harry Potter — taking pride of place on my bookshelf, now flanked with my very own wand made the other day at Harry Potter Day at South Library (Miss Missy didn’t want one, but I did!). And I have read them all over and over.

So when I first heard about an eighth Harry Potter, I was so excited! But then I found out that it wasn’t exactly going to be a novel, and it wasn’t exactly by JK Rowling, and…well, I had my doubts. Could it be as good as the others? Would it really — count? Did I even want my own copy?

Harry Potter Day at South Library
Harry Potter Day at South Library, Flickr File Reference: 2016-07-31-IMG_0169

Well, Harry Potter Day decided matters for us. As well as getting sorted — Miss Missy into Ravenclaw, and The Young Lad and I into Hufflepuff (the perfect houses for us all, actually) — making wands, and drinking polyjuice potion, we were treated to a wonderful storytime reading from Scene One of the Cursed Child. At the end, Miss Missy looked at me and said

After this, we are going straight to the book shop!

And we did!

Cover of Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildWe decided we were both going to finish the books we were already reading first, so we didn’t actually start till Friday. I took it to work to read at lunch, while Miss Missy had teacher only day, and finished reading Mocking Jay in anticipation. During the weekend, we started out taking turns with the book, but ended up sitting side by side on the couch reading on the same page together. Miss Missy was always just ahead of me, so there was lots of gasping and squealing, and then waiting for me to catch up. There was even occasional page-covering when it got too exciting (does anyone else do that?)  At 10 o’clock on Sunday night we had to force ourselves to stop, and on a cliff-hanger too!

If you’d asked me what I thought while I was reading Act One, I’d have said I was enjoying it more that I expected, but less than I’d hoped. Because I really had hoped that somehow, once I started reading, the words would scurry round the page and reform themselves into the kind of Harry Potter story I was used to. Magical as Harry Potter is, of course that didn’t happen. But after getting past the first bit, where I felt I needed the director telling me what he wanted so I could better understand the stage directions, not to mention my annoyance that important things and people seemed to be being ignored — and got to the REALLY good bit! Well! It’s just as exciting and magical, occasionally funny, a little bit scary, and a little bit sad, as any of the other Harry Potter books are.

I really have started to forget that I’m reading a play — even though the words are staying obstinately still — and just enjoying!

Harry Potter display
Harry Potter display, Flickr File Reference: 2016-07-26- IMG_5242

If you are one of the almost 200 people who’ve been waiting for it to arrive at the library, the wait is over! I unpacked our copy this morning, as did librarians all round town. And I’m sure you’ll enjoy too!

Naxos Theatre presents…

Logo of Naxos Video LibraryWhilst making myself aware of what library resources we have via the Source today I came upon ‘a gem’. Now I quite understand if you don’t think this tidbit of information is mind-blowing, because, let’s face it, we all appreciate different things.

If someone mentioned in passing that they had found a fantastic library resource all about the history of football which showed vintage games of yesteryear, you would probably find me in the foetal position banging my head on any available wall (not as easy as it sounds!).  But theatre productions – now, that’s a totally different ball game (every pun intended).

I clicked on Music, audio & video and chose the option Naxos Video Library. I then selected the option Genres and Programmes which showed me Theatre.  I would have had much more immediate fun if I hadn’t clicked on Opera, Monuments/History/Geography and Feature Films first, but maybe I had to wade my way through the potential of these first to truly experience the excitement I felt when – alphabetically by playwright’s surname – I found plays and theatre productions I had never heard of before. Some of these productions go back as far as 1960 with the most recent being a Shakespearean play put on at the Globe Theatre in 2011.

Cover of Much Ado About NothingAnyway, back to the 1960s and 70s…  Eli Wallach, Lee J. Cobb, Dustin Hoffman, Ingrid Bergman, William Hurt, Sissy Spacek, Jason Robards, Walter Matthau are just a few of the American actors who ‘trod the boards’ in their younger years before Hollywood beckoned. Some of the offerings are literally on stage sets, whilst others are televised versions of plays.

Chekov’s The Seagull , Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing are just a few of the more recognised plays, but there are also playwrights and plays I’ve never heard of before.

After much dithering I’ve decided to watch the 1979 production of Mourning Becomes Electra, Eugene O’Neill’s ‘classic American drama of love, revenge, murder and suicide’ with hopefully not a football in sight!

Have a look at the Naxos Music or Video Library next time you are on the library website – there’s a HUGE amount of material to cast your eye over.

 

More free tickets to Plum!

Photo of Colin McPhillamy as Plum
Colin McPhillamy as Plum

Congratulations to the lucky winners of the six double passes to ‘Plum’:

  • Jane Craker
  • Jennifer Leahy
  • Sally Cox
  • Kirsten Rayne
  • Colette Lim
  • Graeme Smart

Did you miss out? Fear not – there is another chance to win!

Today, at 1pm at Upper Riccarton Library, Colin McPhillamy (the actor who plays P.G. Wodehouse in ‘Plum’) will present an illustrated talk on Wodehouse and will read excerpts from his writing career. Colin will also talk about the play and there will be time for a Q&A session at the end.

Three spot prizes of double tickets to ‘Plum’ and an autographed show programme will be given away during the talk.

It promises to be a very interesting presentation and, who knows, you could be one of the lucky spot prize winners. Make sure you don’t miss out!

A Plum role

Being lucky enough to have some sneak peeks before the opening night of Plum, The Court Theatre’s new play, has really got me giddying up at the prospect of actually seeing it.

Photo of The Muse and Plum
Laura Hill as The Muse and Colin McPhillamy as Plum (courtesy of The Court Theatre)

At the photo call in the Heritage Hotel this week, Laura Hill (the Muse) channelled Wallis Simpson (only younger and much prettier) with a touch of Dita von Teese and was unbelievably at ease while being photographed. Perhaps they have classes at drama school in how to obey instantly when asked for the “1940s off to the future” look.

Colin McPhillamy (Plum) was resplendent in a specially commissioned cardigan featuring every Arran pattern known to an expert knitter. He had taken one for the team in having his normally full head of hair shaved to resemble P. G. Wodehouse’s less well-covered pate, while Laura Hill’s brunette look called forth the question “who’s in charge of the wig”?

And I cannot resist sharing the set model which is made, to scale, before each show so the set construction team, props and tech departments know what to expect when it comes time to build, install and light. Do they keep them all and if they do can I see them? All of them?

Photo of scale model of set
Scale model of the set for ‘Plum’ (courtesy of The Court Theatre)

Plum is a world premiere set at the most critical time of P. G. Wodehouse‘s life. The man who set off to be interned with a copy of Shakespeare, a pair of pyjamas and a mutton chop was accused of lending “his services to the German propaganda machine” and he never returned to England for the rest of his long life.

It’s going to be quite the combination of script, actors, costumes and set. I can’t wait.

Intrigued? Enter our competition and you could win one of six double passes to see Plum, courtesy of The Court Theatre.

Win tickets to Plum!

Competition alert!
We have 6 double passes to Plum to give away, courtesy of The Court Theatre.

Plum runs from 9 to 30 August and deals with the wartime shenanigans of P. G. Wodehouse, the enormously popular author of the Jeeves and Blandings Castle novels and short stories.

For more background on Plum, read our blog posts.

Photo of Plum

To enter:

  1. Answer the following simple question: what was P.G. Wodehouse’s full name?
  2. Email your answer, name and contact details to competition@christchurchcitylibraries.com by 5 pm Sunday 17 August.

Conditions of Entry

  • Only one entry per person.
  • If you are a winner, you consent to your name being used for reasonable publicity purposes by Christchurch City Libraries.
  • Staff of Christchurch City Libraries and their immediate families are not eligible to enter.
  • The competition ends on Sunday 17 August at 5pm.
  • Winners will be drawn randomly and will be notified by telephone and/or email on Monday 18 August.
  • Prizes are in the forms of vouchers and don’t guarantee seats. You must book your seats at the Court Theatre’s Box Office.
  • Prizes are not transferable.

Fiona Farrell talks about adapting Ngaio Marsh to the stage

Inside the Ngaio Marsh houseFiona Farrell has been adapting the Ngaio Marsh novel Photo Finish into a stage play SNAP! which is coming soon to the Court Theatre. She will talk about her task at the Elmwood Bowling Clubrooms, Heaton Street, Merivale on Sunday 15 September from 5pm to 7pm.

Photo Finish was one of the four Ngaio Marsh novels set in New Zealand. ( I seem to remember another involved someone crushed in a wool press and another offed in a mud pool – both truly Enzed ends). This one was written when she was over 80 years old, was well received and sold well. It was her second to last detective novel. It follows the traditional convention of a house party trapped in a storm except the venue was not a country house but a South Island luxury lodge.

The talk is a fund raiser for the Friends of Ngaio Marsh House. To book tickets, which are $25.00,  contact Philippa Bates philbates@paradise.net.nz The price includes wine or fruit juice, nibbles and a social half hour.

Ngaio Marsh House is a great cause to support. It is currently undergoing earthquake repairs and should reopen in September. It is well worth a visit. We have some photos which will give you a taster of what to expect when you visit.

LitFinder: the power of words!

There is one poem that always make me smile despite being completely knackered. It is a poem of defiance in the face of adversity. Part of it is here:

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

                                                        Still I’ll rise.

(Excerpt from the poem Still I Rise by Maya Angelou (1978))

I discovered this wee gem through LitFinder which contains:

  • 135,000 full-text poems (Frost, Byron, Pound, and Rossetti);
  • Over 7,000 full-text short stories and novels (Chaucer, Poe, Hemingway, Walker);
  • 4,000 full-text essays published from the past 500 years which focus on humanities, social science, and literary criticism;
  • 1,700 full-text plays, including one-act plays, tragedies and comedies (Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen);
  • 2,000 full-text speeches, including Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Obama.

If you are seeking the rest of this poem, inspiration or just research answers then LitFinder is a great place to start. Here you will find words to calm or alternatively kick-start your passions!

Get ya geek on: Really useful resources for NCEA Drama

Prepare for your NCEA Drama assessments by making the most of these resources, and Cover image of "Year 11 drama study guide"you will earn yourself a standing ovation for your performance.

Want some more really useful resources for another NCEA subject? Go to The Pulse, the library’s website for teens.

Singing the praises of STORE

For my Christmas/New Year getaway reading this year I placed reserves on everything in the library by Austrian novelist and playwright Peter Handke. Although he has been published in English as recently as 2007, the library’s holdings of his works are all from the seventies and eighties, and boy was I pleased and impressed to see that these works are still available to borrowers,  just a $1.50 reserve away.

Of all his plays that I have read, my favourite remains Publikumsbeschimpfung (“Offending the audience”), written in 1966. Like many of his works, it is delightfully, sometimes painfully self-reflexive, and constantly pokes fun at everything we think we know about the culture, routines and structures of theatre.

Of the six pieces in “The ride across lake constance and other plays,” my favourite has to be “Prophecy,” a short (5 or 6 page) script for 4 speakers in which all the lines follow the format “The sunrise will rise like a sunrise / The cold winter morning will feel like a cold winter morning / The honorable man will act honorably / The wild fire will spread like wild fire” and so on.

His humour and playfulness always delight me. He has a penchant for repetition, even to the point of risking losing the bulk of his audience (has anyone ever seen Peter Greenaway’s “Vertical Features Remake”?), but the real key to his appeal for me is his contrariness and breaking of rules – all of his works invite his audience to break out of their roles, examine the expectations they and others set forth for life, work and social interaction, and live their lives in a playful and liberated celebration.