A trio of brand-new Māori and Pasifika theatre pieces will be making their debut for the first time this week in a three-night showcase at The Court Theatre called Ē Toru.
Performed at The Forge at The Court Theatre’s Pub Charity Studio, these three developing Māori and Pasifika plays each come from individual companies who will be testing their stories in front of a live audience for the very first time.
The first play in the series, Rīpeka, comes from local actress, director and first-time playwright Tania Gilchrist.
Her story, focused on whakapapa and identity, follows Paia as she learns about the life of her ancestor, Rīpeka, living in The East Cape in the 1860s.
Gilchrist is excited to be opening the series this Thursday with her brand-new play.
“This idea has been with me for a while and having an opportunity to see it outside of my head is exciting. To share Te Reo Māori and Te Ao Māori with Court Theatre audiences is exciting too.”
For Gilchrist the experience is about more than just seeing her work come to life, with a lot of learning experiences on offer, too.
“To be able to come to grips with the process of creating a work for theatre and how I operate in the space is a key goal, but mostly I want to learn as much as I can!”
Associate Director at The Court Theatre, Dan Bain, is overseeing the project, who says that support offered to the practitioners is catered to their individual needs.
“The Court’s involvement is a bespoke process to each company. For some we are offering dramaturgical or directorial feedback. Others we provide technical resource and expertise. The Court’s role is not to say how to tell these stories, but to support them in coming to life,” Bain says.
The second of these stories is Tavita Nielsen-Mamea’s Au Ko Tuvalu, following three siblings who are displaced from their home island of Tuvalu due to climate change.
“Au Ko Tuvalu means ‘I am Tuvalu’. It is a reference to the people of Tuvalu who are losing their islands to climate change. I believe it is an issue that needs to be talked about – climate change and its effects in the Pacific. There is a saying in the Tuvaluan community, ‘you save Tuvalu, you save the world.’ Ē Toru is a great platform for us Māori and Pasifika artists to voice our ideas and tell our stories to the rest of Christchurch, Aotearoa and the world.”
The stories, voices and perspectives that will be shared in Ē Toru are exclusive to our part of the world, which is why the Kaihāpai Toi at The Court Theatre, Vanessa Gray, believes Ē Toru is so important.
“It’s important that The Court Theatre puts on work like Ē Toru because Aotearoa New Zealand and its Māori and Pasifika peoples have a unique perspective found nowhere else in the world. Our Māori and Pasifika voices are just as deserving to be heard and seen as any other. Possibly even more so, as they are still highly underrepresented in te ao toi whakaari. Aotearoa is the only place where these unique voices and perspectives exist so it’s important we respect that fact and offer support in whatever way we can. The Court’s goal in Ōtautahi is to provide and strike a better balance with Māori and Pasifika artists to reflect and support our diverse communities, people and practitioners showcasing their extraordinary creative talent.”
The final company performing in the series is Pasifika theatre collective Y|NOT. Y|NOT’s previous theatre productions include La'u Gagana, performed at Wellington’s Bats Theatre earlier this year, and 2017’s The Fahu.
Their production of Palu on Saturday will take a traditional cabaret setting and give it a Pacific twist in what will be a tri-lingual production.
Speaking about their upcoming performance, Y|NOT member Albany Peseta says the company are thrilled to have been given this opportunity to perform at The Court Theatre alongside Gilchrist and Nielsen-Mamea.
“Ē Toru will show something different and to offer something new to Christchurch and The Court Theatre.”
Ē Toru runs at The Court Theatre from the 9th – 11th August with all tickets $10. Rīpeka will be performed on the 9th August; Au Ko Tuvalu on the 10th August and Palu on the 11th August. To find out more about Ē Toru and to book tickets, click here.