He Whakaari

Te Rākau is in constant pursuit of understanding our collective history as New Zealanders. We do this by listening to the voices of those who have gone before us, and creating theatre works that honour their stories and evoke audience discussion.

Our longterm project is The UnderTOW, a series of four plays that follows the aftermath of our founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, from 1840 to the day after tomorrow. It is envisaged that The UnderTOW will be performed in repertory in 2018.

The Ragged (2010)

“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? But never mind, Samuel Kenning, go sit peacefully in your hut on the beach, anything would be better than the factories of Victorian England. It couldn’t get any worse. Unless of course, it is true when they tell you there is a sea monster living in the waters of Ōwhiro Bay. What was that noise? Oh dear, perhaps you should have been nicer to those gentlemen from the New Zealand Company when they wouldn’t return your money…..

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 The UnderTOW which looks at our country’s dynamic history.  For a review of the 2010 production of The Ragged, follow this link.

Dog&Bone (2012)

“But all we’ll do is throw you a bone, a single bone and then watch all you mongrels turn on each other.”

The second Taranaki War is raging and New Plymouth is a garrison town under siege. The British Imperial Army have returned to England, leaving the country to Māori and Pākehā to fight over – “He iwi tahi tātou” no longer. To the victor the spoils: a lush, green country ripe for farming, and the right to rewrite history as they see fit. To the loser: the slow, systematic loss of everything held dear – starting with their land and freedom. But in 1869 the war is a far cry from the south coast of Wellington, where Tāiki Kenning has settled in marital bliss with his Pākehā bride Hannah-May. There, Tāiki and Hannah-May keep the homefires of Te Miti burning, in the hope that one day his people will return. But as a storm brews overhead and Hannah-May begins to dream of terrors in the forest, a pack of dogs appear with a warning for Tāiki. Find out more about this production by following this link.

Public Works (2015)

“Then you know what happens, then – how Te Manawa-Ora reared her head through the soil, and she whistled and screamed her hell and fury onto the trenches – no mercy for what you did to her – for caging her in there – for making us come all the way out here and fight you – and die face-down in our own piss and entrails – and for what – for this piece of Hell-on-Earth? Come on you devils – come and get it!”

The year is 1917, and thousands of men from the four corners of the world are bogged down in the muddy death pits of war-torn Belgium. Abandoned in a small section of No Man’s Land, Will, Hamuera and Fleur share an uneasy truce, and dream of a home by the sea…

The Landeaters (2016)

“Fear of losing your mates – fear of getting caught – fear of getting lost – fear of not getting back. My mates, it’s all about your mates. Hey, I volunteered – we knew where we were going. I don’t want to be a crying soldier. I can pull meself out of it, yeah!”

For property developer Wayne Tinkerman, this day could not have started any sweeter. After months of wrangling with red-tape and a disgruntled community, he has finally landed his prize – the right to develop land on the Wellington South Coast. All that stands in his way now is an ancient willow tree – should be simple enough to remove with a digger – not so, as Wayne finds out that former landowner Harry Kenning has taken up residence beneath the tree. And unfortunately for Wayne, getting rid of a giant tree is nothing compared to what he’ll have to do to dig out an old soldier like Harry. And there is no way Harry’s going to come out – not without a fight.

Concerned with memory, isolation, healing and resistance, The Landeaters is a creative arts research collaboration undertaken by writer Helen Pearse-Otene (Te Rākau Theatre) and a group of Vietnam veterans.