I, George Nepia is a beautifully written, beautifully realised play. The script by Hone Kouka draws inspiration from many sources including Nepia’s autobiography. You don’t have to have read the book to appreciate the play. (I’m not even sure you have to appreciate rugby.) The narrative is about a man finding his place in a game that he happens to be good at, then reconciling that with family life. (Some of Nepia’s whanau were there on opening night. It’s a mark of how much care has gone into the play that at one point someone cried out “That’s it! That’s exactly it!”)

The play is a scene flick back and forth between an older Nepia in a sort of supernatural waiting space at the stadium reflecting on his life, and a young Nepia embarking on the 1924 All Blacks tour of the British Isles. (Disclosure here: Jarod Rawiri who plays George Nepia (and all the other characters) is my sister’s tāne.) Mentors, teachers, and other characters feature briefly to illuminate different aspects of Nepia’s progress. Solid physical work clearly defines each character. Director Jason Te Kare has worked carefully on detailing each scene. The design team (Cara Louise Waretini, Miriama Ketu-McKenzie, Karnan Saba, Robert Larsen, Thomas Hanover) have kept the aesthetic simple. The set is basically a chair, a guitar. Projected line drawings represent the flat ocean, seats in a stadium, a church. Everything about the play comes across as subtle and nuanced. Surpisingly for a play that is so moving, it’s also very funny. Tumeke.

  • I, George Nepia on at Circa to 16 September. (The play kicks-off at 2pm on the weekend and 6pm on week nights.)