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.


This January at Te Papa



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, Te Rākau’s Dog & Bone paints a time in our city’s history when savage lives were cheap, hungry colonial greed ruled, and the realised power of public perception changed our country’s race relations forever.

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

The play is the second in our quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington and follows on from The Ragged(’s) (Wellington 1840) successful season at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa in January 2015.

Te Rākau Theatre Trust again invites you all on our journey into Wellington’s past, present and future in Te Ao Hurihuri (the everchanging world).

Book at ticketek here now or give them a call on 0800 TICKETEK (842 538)

We’ve kept prices as low as we can, and there are great deals for families and groups of 6 or more if you give them a call.


The Ragged has left the building – but we’ll be back!

The cast of The Ragged at Te Papa, January 2015 - final scene
The cast of The Ragged at Te Papa, January 2015 – final scene

And so down comes the curtain on another short, mad, and intense Te Rākau Theatre season in the sandpit.  Words cannot express how grateful we are for the assistance of Te Puni Kōkiri, WCC, Ngāti Toa, Massey University, and Te Papa. Without the collective efforts of these organisations, we would not have made it to opening night – nō reira, kai te mihi, kai te mihi. Fingers crossed that getting the second play Dog&Bone up and running later this year will be a smoother journey…Finally, to the wonderful audiences who attended The Ragged, thank you for spending some time with us in 1840, and sharing your responses, reflections, and feedback. Kia ora rā!

The Ragged is in the House!

Last night we opened our show The Ragged at our national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa. Awesome audience, fantastic hosts, and shoes full of sand. Thanks to the whānau who came to support our hard working cast and crew. As for the rest of you New Zealanders: why not take an hour and a half out of your day and swap for a slice of 1840s Wellington history – come down to Te Papa and get a bit of history up ya….us Māoris won’t bite (those days are over…sort of….)


The Ragged

Te Rākau Theatre with support from Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangātira, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Te Puni Kōkiri presents ‘The underTOW’ – A quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington – past, present and future

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua – Man disappears but the land remains. 

Part One: The Ragged (Wellington 1840)

By Helen Pearse-Otene

Directed by Jim Moriarty

Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, level 2

20 – 28 January 2015

Bookings: http://www.ticketek.co.nz

A4 Poster The Ragged-no text-hi-res

It’s 1840 and all the players are here, 

at the bottom of the world, 

at the dawn of the great new British Colony:

Port Nicholson, Wellington, New Zealand

41.2889° S, 174.7772° E

NZ Company representatives the Spooners – for them a grand residence in Thorndon, flooded shacks for the rest. Come to Wellington – the land is flat, the climate sub-tropical and bananas grow plentifully!

Newly arrived settler Samuel Kenning – “safe and well at the ends of the earth” and ready to claim his land and his better life.

Governor Hobson’s man, Crippen, quelling the settlers’ fears of an impending savage attack.

Missionary man Thaddeus Bly bringing the firm hand of god to Port Nicholson and its natives.

But what of those natives? Those Māori over in Ōwhiro Bay? Wise but stubborn old chief Te Waipōuri and his people.

Surely they are grateful for the presence of these sweet talking men, these landeaters whose mouths froth for the land…?

The Ragged follows the struggles of the ordinary, yet extraordinary people who called Wellington home in 1840 and is the first in writer Helen Pearse-Otene’s quartet of plays about the settlement, development and future of Wellington, The underTOW.


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

Helen is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington and Toi Whakaari:NZ Drama School. As a performer, Helen has toured throughout Aotearoa and overseas with Māori theatre productions including Waiora (Hone Kouka), Purapurawhetu (Briar Grace-Smith) and The Battalion. Helen has been a member of Te Rakau since 1999, working in every aspect of the company except the accounts department because “I can’t count”. The Ragged is Helen’s fifth play for Te Rakau. Her play The Battalion was included in the 2006 NZ Festival of the Arts and another, Ka Mate, Ka Ora was commissioned for the 2008 Vietnam Commemoration Tribute 08. Earlier this year, Helen won Best Female Actress at The Wairoa Film Festival, for her performance in No Petrol, No Diesel. Helen is particularly proud of this award as she was told that it was a close battle between her and the goat from Boy, as “Every actress knows it’s very difficult to win against someone who has a great death scene, not to mention a well trimmed beard”.


Jim Moriarty MNZM (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitane, Scots, Norwegian)

A sober Catholic Māori and father to 8 children, Jim was tarred with the performing brush at an early age. Long before Black & White television, when valve radios reigned supreme, Jim was infected with the need to be the centre of attention. Of course, coming from a family of 8 siblings and many whangai, this was rarely the case for Jim. Needless to say, Jim battled on through the late 60s in the Māori Theatre Trust, and in the timber town television series Pukemanu. In the 70s, Jim stumbled in and out of local soap opera Close to Home, and in the 80s landed on his feet in New Zealand Theatre. Singing, sometimes dancing, occasionally acting up a storm, over the next 30 years, Jim earned the status of Veteran New Zealand Actor (Jim says the only thing “veteran” about it is that he seems to have outlived a number of his peers and mentors and is close to earning his “Gold Card”).  Brought up on the Marae at Takapuwahia, educated through Catholic primary and secondary schools, following a short stint at Victoria University, Jim got a real job and trained as a Psychiatric Nurse (following in the footsteps of his parents). Jim is “forever grateful” for the mix of his blood, to his hard working mother and father and to the teachers who bothered to bother: “The teachers came in a variety of shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities, and degrees of intensity. So anything I might be good at – or otherwise – they are all to blame.”  In the last 21 years, Jim has spearheaded Te Rakau Trust, using his skills as a performer, a director and as a health professional to support the journey and development of those less fortunate.


Tanemahuta Gray (Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne and Tainui )

Tanemahuta Gray graduated from the New Zealand School of Dance in 1994 and is their current Māori Kapa Haka tutor and that of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. He has worked professionally as a dancer, choreographer, aerialist, director, teacher, adjudicator and producer in New Zealand and abroad and has produced and directed 16 productions and outdoor events.

His choreographic works include five years guest choreographing on the South Pacific Section for WOW – World of WearableArt Awards; the Oceania representative work (from New Zealand) at the World Expo Opening Ceremony in Shanghai and his major opus Māui – One Man Against The Gods. He has co-curated three Kōwhiti Dance festivals and was the Artistic Director of Te Matatini’s Arohanui – The Greatest Love. He has provided Kapa Haka choreography for Hone Kouka’s Tū and The Beautiful Ones and worked with Te Rākau co-producing their production of Ka Mate, Ka Ora during Tribute08 – A Vietnam Veteran Commemoration which he was the Creative Director of.

Tanemahuta is a conversational speaker of te reo Māori and has focused on mastering mau raakau (taiaha). His focus has now been on creating a new form of Maori contemporary movement with Kōrari, a fusion of contemporary movement and Māori Martial Art forms.

Producer: Sasha Gibb

Costume Design: Cara Waretini

Lighting Design: Lisa Maule

Sound Design: Busby Pearse-Otene

Marketing and Publicity: Aneta Ruth

Promotional graphic design: Walter Hansen

The underTOW at Te Papa in 2015

Te Rākau Theatre with support from Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangātira, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Te Puni Kōkiri presents ‘The underTOW’ – A quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington – past, present and future

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua – Man disappears but the land remains.


Te Rākau Theatre Company is excited to announce a new series of plays to bring Wellington’s rich history to life, with support from Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangātira, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Te Puni Kōkiri.

In support of Ngāti Toa’s residency at Te Papa, Aotearoa’s longest surviving Māori theatre company, Te Rākau, will present their work over the next three years at the museum, taking audiences on a journey into Wellington’s past, present and future with writer Helen Pearse-Otene’s quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington – The underTOW.

The series, beginning in 1840 and concluding with a look into the not –so- distant future, offers a uniquely Māori perspective on the city’s history and the ordinary people who achieved the extraordinary.

The project is a special one for Jim Moriarty, of Ngāti Toa descent, who along with Jerry Banse formed Te Rākau in 1989. Jim has spent decades working throughout Aotearoa and around the world as an actor and director. Here in Aotearoa he and Te Rākau remain dedicated to supporting communities through the company’s marae-based theatre programme.

“This series of plays about the settlement of Wellington, starting with The Ragged in 1840, has always been a passion of mine and Helen’s – to unravel our collective history to better grow our understanding of each other; the diverse cultures that make up Aotearoa today, but in particular, the stories of our Māori and Pākehā ancestors. 

The underTOW series at Te Papa, the home of our national taonga, and in conjunction with Ngāti Toa Rangātira’s residency, provides a perfect opportunity to venture beyond historical amnesia and look at some truths about our collective and sometimes murky past.” Jim Moriarty

In her research for the series, Pearse-Otene drew on local stories, including a mixture of diary entries and letters by settlers. While the plays themselves are works of fiction they are deeply rooted in history and the sentiments of the times in which they are set.

“Although I consider Wellington to be “home” this town is still a mystery to me in many ways. I am often amazed by the old stories that are hidden beneath the surface of this shaky ground waiting to be uncovered – stories that speak of uncertainty, struggle, misunderstanding, resilience, and hope. To me, the underTOW series is a love letter to Pōneke and to the treaty that made this country.” Helen Pearse-Otene

The series begins in 1840 with The Ragged, which explores early relationships between settlers, the New Zealand Company and the Tangata Whenua.

Part 2 – Dog and Bone is set in 1869 during the second Taranaki campaign of the New Zealand Wars and gives insight into the origin of the negative stereotypes that are perpetuated about Māori.

Part 3 is Public Works, set during World War I when the Public Works Act was used to build schools, churches, public buildings and war memorials, but also to alienate Māori from their lands.

The final instalment is The Landeaters where we face the day after tomorrow.

Te Rākau Theatre looks forward to welcoming a diverse audience to Te Papa’s Soundings Theatre over the coming years to laugh, cry, learn, forget, understand, appreciate, challenge and, most of all, participate in Wellington’s history.

The Ragged – Opening tomorrow!



“No matter. I am here. Safe and well at the ends of the Earth. Far away from England’s thumb. A man does not need a paper to start anew. A man needs only a strong will and good land to break to it. And if you are right, savage boy, and this land is unclaimed territory then I shall take it – by Right of Discovery.”

Or so the newly arrived settler Samuel Kenning thinks. Too bad for him that there are people already living in Ōwhiro Bay,  the newly baptised Chief Te Waipōuri and his people who have no intention of leaving the land. Then there is his grumpy daughter in law, and the ambitious missionary who refuses to help free the lonely Pākehā slave – why?

The Ragged follows the struggles of ordinary people desperate for a better life in Port Nicholson (Wellington) in 1840. It is the first instalment in our longterm project called the UnderTOW – a series of plays that tells the story of our country’s dynamic history – the story of us.

Venue: St Orans College, 550 High Street, Lower Hutt.                                                 Dates: 22nd July – 26th July                                                                                           Times: 6.30pm                                                                                                                  Prices: Adults $20/Students $15/ Children $7.50                                                         Bookings: Tickets through http://dashtickets.co.nz or Lower Hutt I-Site (A service fee may apply) – Door sales available

Matinee performances 22nd – 25th July at 1pm. Seats are limited so bookings are essential. Contact us at terakau@xtra.co.nz or call Jim Moriarty on 027 443 9250 for Matinee bookings.