“This story provides a fantastic opportunity for a whole lot of people to start reflecting on our country’s history;
what are all these things that brought us here? What are all the issues,
what do we need to turn and face? How do we go forward?
The people in Undertow are like us, just people, flesh and blood who made choices
and decisions, for whatever reason, but always in the context of what was happening around them.” Helen Pearse-Otene
Kaitohu/Director Jim Moriarty (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kahungungu, Rangitane, Scots, Norwegian, Italian) says UNDERTOW is an attempt to “move forward into the 21st century, get over our historical amnesia and understand our collective history. The works will travel all over the world and audiences will recognise the themes. We created these stories based on the south coast of Wellingtn as a metaphor for events that happen everywhere. The dynamics of people colonising each other is still as relevant now as it was then.”
Moriarty’s Theatre Marae style is the fusion of therapeutic models, ngā mahi a Rēhia, and political theatre wrapped up in Kaupapa Māori. Casts are large and rehearsals are run like wānanga with movement workshops, voice tutoring, script analysis, ensemble work, waiata and kapa haka practice. The ensemble is key. Everyone does a bit of everything. Sets and props are minimal, costumes suggestive rather than literal and music and sound effects are often performed live on stage.
“To cast, crew, writers, this is the best piece of theatre I have ever seen and I hope to see it again someday.
It was visionary, touching, thought provoking and most of all important work!” - Audience response
Waka had retained the physical and emotional immediacy of watching a live performance, captured Te Rākau’s signature Theatre Marae style, and fused it together with cinematic conventions and language to create a new theatrical-cinematic genre. The best minds, talent, and facilities in the world have caressed, encouraged, cajoled and embraced this work into being, and UNDERTOW is now ready to be seen and experienced by the world.
“This production is visceral, propulsive, enthralling and as kinetic as any film could ever hope to be...
Undertow promises to be unlike any other from Aotearoa/New Zealand and an entirely new and
otherwise unobtainable experience. This project excites me, I want to see this film.”
Graeme Tuckett - Film Reviewer and Writer for The Dominion Post/Fairfax/Stuff/RNZ
UNDERTOW will be a valuable resource for understanding and presenting the complexity of our collective history in Aotearoa. Te Rākau will reach into corners of the country that could not be otherwise achieved by an independent theatre company.
The four chapters screen on Māori Television in October 2019, with the support of New Zealand On Air, Māori Television and Lotteries Tuia Encounters 250 fund.
A story challenging us to ask who we are and what we stand for.
A story of how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.
An epic so big it took not one play but four, a quartet, to house it.
An epic that, by reflecting back to us the sometimes mutual incomprehensibility of the
different worlds that make up Aotearoa, begins to make them comprehensible.
Starts the connecting. Starts the healing. This is The Undertow.
Dr Elspeth Tilley | Massey University