It’s 1869 at the bottom of the world
The British Army gone and left
Māori and Pākehā to fight it out.
The Māori kuri
like its master
an inferior, ugly, savage animal
not to be given an inch
…or a bone.

Set in Wellington in 1869, a bitter time when “savage” lives were cheap, hungry colonial greed ruled, and hopeful settlers were disembarking to find themselves in a war zone, Te Rākau Theatre’s epic play Dog & Bone, with a cast of 26, takes to the stage at Te Papa’s Soundings Theatre in January.


The Dog & Bone team includes experienced professionals and award winning actors, graduates and students of NZ’s major performing arts schools, secondary and primary students, interns, amateur theatre lovers and children, all working together on this ambitious project.

Dog & Bone is the second in writer Helen Pearse-Otene’s Undertow series – a quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington which, while tackling major historical events, also reminds us of the ordinary people who lived, loved, fought, sacrificed, lost, won, and ultimately called this place home in 1869.

Pearse-Otene’s extensive research for the play included settlers’ and Armed Constabulary diaries, newspaper articles, and ngā kupu tuku iho (oral histories) of local Iwi.

Dog & Bone points to a pivotal moment in our country’s race relations history – when media was first used to paint Māori as inferior and dangerous and therefore unworthy of their lands. 

It tells a story of the real people who were making, living with, disseminating, fighting, accepting and benefitting from these ideas.

Helen Pearse-Otene
(Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine-Kahungungu)


Director Jim Moriarty, of Ngāti Toa descent, hopes that Te Rākau’s relationship with Te Papa will open the door for other Maori theatre groups throughout the country.

“At the moment there is no dedicated space for Aotearoa’s Tangata Whenua to perform and create theatre work and to grow our practitioners and industry. Poneke and Te Papa are a natural home for the taonga that are our stories and experiences.”

Te Rākau Theatre again has the support of Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangātira – Te Papa’s resident iwi, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Te Puni Kōkiri, and has partnered with New Zealand’s Toi Tōtara Haemata Māori Theatre Company Taki Rua Productions to present Dog & Bone. This partnership marks a new strategy for Taki Rua to collaborate with companies and artists from New Zealand’s talented Māori Theatre Industry, to further support the growth, development and staging of exciting Māori productions for communities nationwide.