Jimmy King, one of New Zealand’s most notorious criminals, is back in jail. He’s sharing a cell with Mau Vaiaga, a recent immigrant to New Zealand. Mau has committed a crime so outrageous that the New Zealand public are out for his blood. They’re both being represented by hot-shot lawyer Waimanea Huia…but is she as neutral as she should be?

Although it explores seriousĀ  themes – identity, media, culture, justice, environment – the play is very funny and lighthearted. There are moments of stillness amongst the joking around which serve to highlight the complexity of the issues faced by all the characters. All three principal actors inhabit their main characters. Jamie McCaskill (also the writer) is all swagger and attitude as Jimmy. He’s able to moderate that, while keeping the attitude, to allow the other side of the character to peek through. Natano Keni plays Mau with a quieter, pulled back rhythm. When that rhythm changes it’s a (well placed) shock. Kali Kopae as Waimanea Huia is confident and forceful. Her character is in conflict and this is demonstrated in only a few scenes. The fourth person on stage is musician Simon Donald. He provides music, some voiceover, and the occasional character. (I was surprised to discover this is Simon’s theatrical debut as he was so natural on stage.) Director Regan Taylor, designer Brian King, and lighting designer Jennifer Lal, have provided a strong space for the characters to come alive in.

I was fortunate to luck into forum night. The cast and director spoke about how much they enjoyed working together. This comes through in their performances on stage. Great work.

  • Manawa by Jamie McCaskill on at Circa Two until 13 October 2012.