Review: Te Pō
Three men gather in a room. Detective Inspector Brett is looking for Bruce Mason who has gone missing. Reverend Athol Sedgewick had dinner with Mason the night before last and is possibly the last person to see him before he disappeared. Werihe has an eight o’clock appointment with the playwright. No-one has any idea where he has gone. The stories the men tell each other – about the investigative process, their lives, their memories – gradually bring them to a realisation that all may not be as it seems and that the facts may be stranger than fiction.
It opens with George Henare (Werihe) singing a love song against a shimmering golden curtain. He retreats to the wings then after the curtain opens reappears in the office of Bruce Mason where he sits down to wait. Henare imbues his character with a calm stillness alongside evidence of a more mischievous nature. Many of his lines are in te reo Māori reflecting some of the themes Mason explored. It is a pleasure to hear Māori on stage in this context. Andrew Grainger (Detective Inspector Brett) enters next. Grainger as Brett is cheerily upbeat even when the character’s life seems to be falling apart. He is bluff and hearty while allowing a small measure of doubt to creep in. Finally Carl Bland (Reverend Athol Sedgewick) enters. His character is the most on the edge of reality and memory. Bland makes Sedgewick resilient in his grief and accepting of strange events that happen around him. He also has some of the best monologues in the play. The three work together in an ensemble that create some beautiful moments on stage. The missing playwright is played by Bruce Mason through recordings.
This is a premiere of a work by Carl Bland and is co-produced by New Zealand Festival, Auckland Arts Festival, Theatre Stampede and Nightsong Productions. Directed by Ben Crowder it is an exploration of the effects of grief. The script is cleverly structured. It has some lines that are positively delicious, and scenes that circle around each other with their word play. The set by Andrew Foster is deceptively simple. Costumes by Elizabeth Whiting support the idea that this is a constructed reality. Beautiful lighting by Nik Janiurek includes one marvelously surprising moment. Gorgeous animals created by Main Reactor operated by Ella Becroft make brief yet important appearances. Music and sound design by John Gibson is fundamental – from the love songs sung by Henare to the soundscape in the final scenes.
Familiar and extraordinary.
- Te Pō, by Carl Bland, directed by Ben Crowder on at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, to 5 March 2016