The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

Following a sold-out Auckland season in 2016, and a 10-centre tour of the United States, Black Grace and Tour-Makers are proud to tour the critically acclaimed As Night Falls to seven national centres from 22 June – 6 July around Aotearoa.

A poetic ode to our troubled world, As Night Falls is Artistic Director Neil Ieremia’s latest full length work, beautifully set to the timeless and passionate sound of Antonio Vivaldi. He says “As Night Falls is bold and bright like the colourful muumuu dresses worn by my mother without shame or ceremony. I had initially wanted this work to be the expression of my concerns and fears of the darkness that seems to be eroding the value of equality and human life. Instead, I feel compelled to respond with a contrasting beauty and physical vitality, musicality and hope.  It is my offer of beauty for ashes.

Black Grace was founded by Neil Ieremia in 1995 and continues to draw inspiration from his Samoan and New Zealand roots to create innovative dance works that reach across social, cultural and generational barriers. Ieremia has been met with widespread recognition for his legacy of work from both audiences and critics alike, all over the globe. He has taken home the Senior Pacific Artist Award from Creative New Zealand and has made the Queen’s Birthday Honours List becoming an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.



A man and a woman stand next to each other underneath a row of round lanterns.Layered with myth and fable, The Mooncake and the Kūmara is a moving story about a mixed-up, Māori-Chinese love affair that sprouts among rows of potatoes. Told in a mixture of English, Māori and Cantonese, the play is showing in Wellington as part of the Kia Mau Festival. Māori-Chinese playwright Mei-Lin Te Puea Hansen talked to us about the play.

“I tell people it took me seven years to write The Mooncake and the Kūmara.  That’s not entirely true – there was the 10 minute version, which was first performed in 2008 and again in 2010 and the full length play that’s coming to Wellington is an extension of that 10-minute version. I wrote the 10-minute, three-hander in conjunction with my cousin Kiel McNaughton. It won Best Drama at Short + Sweet 2010 and so I was encouraged by that to work on a full-length script.

It’s taken several years since then for the play to reach the point it has now – being performed at Hannah Playhouse as part of the Kia Mau Festival. That said, because of the supportive crew involved, I’ve had a relatively easy ride getting my script to the stage.  I’ve had so much support all along the way – Playmarket sessions with Stuart Hoar thanks to Banana Boat and Jenni Heka and Murray Lynch, connections with lecturers and supervisors from the past, access to lots of other work – I could go and see lots of plays because I knew lots of people involved in theatre.  I knew about Festivals, theatre companies, and enough about how theatre works to provide me with a lot of hook ups.

Then there’s the role of producers in actually making sure the play got put on. I put the script in front of Carla van Zon [then Director of Auckland Festival] and pleaded with her to read it. After the work premiered at the Auckland Arts Festival 2015, Betsy & Mana Productions with The Oryza Foundation and The Touring Agency toured the show to Nelson, Oamaru, Taranaki, Tauranga, and Hamilton.

Now my super-duper production team have organised the tour that is bringing the show to Kia Mau.

Primarily I’m aiming the story at people like me; people who love stories about Aotearoa, people who are interested in the secrets, loves, trials and dreams of those around them, people who have big, culturally mixed (in whatever way) families like my one, people who have come here from somewhere else, people who are lonely, people who are in love and I wrote the story for my whānau…that’s a LOT of people.

The play is very special to me because it’s about my grandparents – my Chinese grandfather (Goong Goong) and my Māori Grandmother (Nan). I wrote it in response to a couple of things. One was imagining of how my mum’s parents came together. There were all sorts of stories flying around when we were kids and none of them was ever touted as the TRUE/REAL story so I wrote this to add to the repertoire – it’s only loosely based on my grandparents.

The other reason I wrote the play was to depict that strange space that you occupy when you’re in between stories. So it’s in response to me looking through family photo albums when I was younger and seeing all these people and places I knew were part of me (China, Hong Kong, Ngaruawahia, Turangawaewae) but that I had no idea about…and I didn’t really know how they were part of me. As well, I was momentarily in situations where Goong Goong would be speaking Cantonese to our relatives and Nan would be speaking Māori to my great aunties and uncles and I would listen, slightly bemused and not really knowing how I belonged or what was going on.

In 2015 I had cousins come to The Mooncake and the Kūmara who’d never stepped into a theatre foyer before – that was a buzz. I caught up with family friends I hadn’t seen in years. I reminisced with old school friends. I watched my tearful mother as she hugged the actors and thanked them for telling our whānau story. I met a woman from New Caledonia who was so excited by the play she wanted us to take it there. Throughout the eight-show season I was spoilt by a mini family-reunion as my whānau, and the whānau of the six cast members came into the city (some from as far as Te Awamutu) to share the story.

I hope [the audience are] thinking that their journey to get to the theatre, to pay for and buy their tickets (not easy these days), to find parking, babysitters, friends to go with etc was worth it and that they’d do it again. I hope there’s something in the show that resonates with them – whether it’s the stories of migration, home, compromise, romance or our country’s shared social history.

I hope they are thinking about our ancestors, about the world, society and environment they lived in and about whether that world has changed. I hope they are thinking about the strength of women. I hope they are thinking about the voices of the people on the fringes of our communities. I hope they are thinking ‘that show told some of my story’. I hope they are thinking, wow, I never knew that…I hope they are thinking ‘that was funny’. I hope they are thinking I’m going to go to another New Zealand play!”

More about the people involved in the show after the jump. Keep reading →


Told through movement, dance and text, this is a modern statement on climate change, colonisation and Christianity across the Pacific Rim. It’s an untangling of the greatest collision to have affected the Pacific – western imperialism.

Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky has various performance times during the mornings. It shows in Tangata Le Moana, Level 4, Te Papa, and the performers move in and around the objects on display. The audience follows them through the space – don’t be afraid to get closer and to walk around them.

Developed as part of her Fulbright–Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer Residency at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, director Mīria George answered some of our questions.

“‘Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky’ has gathered emerging and established artists based in Te Whānganui-a-tara.  In the rehearsal room I’ve been working with three artists who are new to the professional industry, Te Hau Winitana, Mapihi Kelland and Manarangi Mua.  Working from a narrative researched and created in Hawai’i, we’ve devised the performance installation on the rehearsal room floor.  Designers Tony De Goldi and Cara Louise Waretini have brought us nuances of time and space through props and costumes – allowing our work to be a story on ideas – a modern statement on climate change and colonisation in the Pacific.   

Māori + Pasifika whānau + hapū stand at the front line of climate change – our waters and whenua affected – the impact upon the present and the future vast.  I wanted to create a work of art that addressed the ongoing colonisation of Māori + Pasifika, whether entrenched in government policy or a continued devaluing of our worldview, ‘Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky’ is about now. 

For a long time I’ve wanted to bring a performance installation into gallery and museum spaces.  My father would take his children into galleries – these are familiar spaces for me, where creativity is both provocative and challenging.  My second stage play ‘and what remains’ premiered within the exhibition space at the City Gallery, Wellington (in 2005) – as at the time more political work was more widely embraced in a visual arts context. I wanted to cross paths with patrons of galleries + museum – with those who are yet to experience a form of indigenous performance.  My aim was to expose my world view directly before these patrons – should they choose to watch and engage or not.  Often families will be within these spaces – parents with children who look on with curiosity and cannot help to follow us through the space.

Gallery and museum spaces can be unexpected and dynamic – particularly when combined with patrons who aren’t necessarily planning to be engaged with our performance installation.  These spaces often hold provocative contemporary work – challenging conversations questioning the world around them and the dominant paradigm.  Museum spaces hold many of our taonga – taonga from throughout the country and the greater Pacific – our tupuna are depicted in these spaces  – and should not be forgotten in these spaces.  ‘Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky’ evokes a creative narrative throughout gallery and museum spaces – where both contemporary work and taonga alike also become a part of our installation.     

I’m excited to present outside of theatres – and in spaces where performance installations are not necessarily common space.  That audiences can encounter an indigenous experience by a female artist may inspire then to search for more performance experiences – and that I might one day see them also inside of the theatre! If audiences would come away curious to consider the multiple ways of life that  they’ve been shown in this work, that audiences would consider the way our worlds collide – just like them encountering this piece. “


Rob Mokaraka, Cohen Holloway, Erroll Anderson, Jerome Leota, and Jamie McCaskill as The Māori Sidesteps.The newest and naughtiest Maori showband on the Aotearoa entertainment scene plays at BATS Theatre during the Kia Mau Festival. Self described as “Funny Māoris with funny songs” this show is more of a gig than a theatre piece for the actors involved. Band member Jamie McCaskill talked about the origins of the group and what they do.

Rob Mokaraka, Cohen Holloway, Jamie McCaskill, Erroll Anderson and Jerome Leota are all professional actors based in the Wellington region. We wanted to create a group that is political, entertaining and funny. Having all these guys together feels like a super group. 

Rob is currently touring his show “Shot bro” around the country, Cohen is a busy actor involved in lots of film and television. Jerome is a stay at home dad and an amazing musician and actor. Jamie is a director of Tikapa Productions and a writer/actor/musician. Erroll is the youngest in the group and has an amazing career ahead of him. So fitting in Maori Sidesteps gigs is tough but we all have a great time doing it.

We started as a live group first in 2016. Producer, Brandon Te Moananui came to us around the same time we were getting the group together and wanted to make a Māori musical web series so Mooks [Rob] and I said, well we happen to have a Māori musical group. Let’s do this!

McCaskill says the show is aimed at “Absolutely everyone. It is an inclusive type performance that should make you proud to be a New Zealander. We are cheeky and naughty there’s no doubt about that. But we won’t slap people over the head with political ideals. I just hope [the audience] have had a great time and sing along. We are putting together a show that has recognisable tunes with our own spin on things. If I see everybody smiling and humming the tunes at the end I will consider that a success. Even better if they buy some of our merchandise we will have on sale.

Watch The Māori Sidesteps – Stepisode 1.


More posts…

Preview: The Purple Onion

by librarykris June 12, 2017

The Purple Onion  peeps into the world of Wellington’s infamous burlesque parlour as part of the Kia Mau Festival. Established in the mid 1960s, the Purple Onion was Wellington’s premiere strip club which attracted some of New Zealand’s social elite as well as its fair share of dubious characters. Combining text, dance and a live funk […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Preview: Riverside Kings

by librarykris June 9, 2017

Riverside Kings opens in Upper Hutt today and plays in BATS Theatre next week as part of the Kia Mau Festival. The creators Sarita So and Natano Keni, describe it as “a physical weaving of brotherhood, nostalgia and change.” Their new company, I Ken So Productions, aims to create, diverse works of a high quality.  They […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Review: Three days in the country

by librarykris June 2, 2017

Set against the backdrop of 1850’s Russia. Serfs (aka slaves) still work the land under the estate holder’s control.  Reform is coming and the country is restless. Rakitin is visiting his friend Arkady at his country estate.  Arkady’s wife Natalya is recovering from her illness. Their son Kolya, and their ward Vera, are spending time […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Preview: Kia Mau Festival

by librarykris May 31, 2017

New Zealand’s only contemporary indigenous theatre and dance event Kia Mau Festival returns to Wellington from Friday 2 – Saturday 24 June. It’s a unique and innovative opportunity for whānau and communities across the Wellington region to engage with today’s tangata whenua and First Nations artists from across the globe. Led by Wellington’s own Māori and Pasifika theatre […]

0 comments Read the full article →

BATS fundraiser preview -White Rabbit Red Rabbit

by librarykris May 30, 2017

BATS is bringing the “audacious theatrical experiment“ White Rabbit Red Rabbit to Wellington for a fundraising season.  Written by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, the play premiered in 2011 and has since been translated into 20 different languages. There are no rehearsals, no director, a different actor each performance, and a script waiting in a sealed […]

Read the full article →

DCM Bookfair dates & donations

by Sue Tyler May 29, 2017

The day of  the 2017 DCM Bookfair is Set. Set aside time for book foraging on Saturday August 5th from 8am till 8pm, at Shed 6 in Queens Wharf. Want to donate books to DCM’s Bookfair on 5 August? This week, is your last chance to donate books because there is a strong likelihood DCM may have […]

Read the full article →