THE UNDERTOW

By Helen Pearse-Otene

 

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua

Man disappears but the land remains.

 

4 plays. 180 years of history. 100% the Treaty in action.

The Undertow is a quartet of plays by renowned New Zealand Playwright Helen Pearse-Otene, that explores our bi-cultural history and significant events in collective story through the eyes of six generations of one family. While themselves works of fiction, the plays are deeply researched and rooted in the history and the sentiments of the times in which they are set.

 

The Undertow plays are the story of both Māori and Pākeha, of ordinary people who lived during extraordinary times in Aotearoa’s history, and the timeless pursuit of somewhere to call home, deftly articulating universal truths about the effects of colonisation.

“To have read or heard about our local history is one thing, but to see it portrayed in the way

Te Rākau Theatre does is special and unique and not to be missed.” 

The Dominion Post

The Undertow has been an ongoing 10-year project for Te Rākau and the plays have been critically described as deeply moving, compelling, generous, unique, lyrical, poetic, confronting and compelling, visceral, insightful and visionary.

 

As well as being a series of plays, The Undertow scripts are also a published resource available to buy in March 2020, a four-chapter television series of the filmed stage performance that screened on Māori TV and will shortly be available to buy on DVD, and a cinema version in development.

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

 

What are all the things that brought us here? What are all the issues, what do we need to turn and face? How do we go forward? The Undertow offers an opportunity to overcome our cultural amnesia, and reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we want to go as a nation.

 

It is possible to hold ourselves accountable for the inherited colonial systems we perpetuate without guilt or anger, and that journey begins with learning and understanding and openness to the experiences of others.

The Undertow is our 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 Wellington as

a metaphor for events that happen everywhere. The dynamics of people colonising each other

is still as relevant now as it was then.”  Jim Moriarty | Director

Part one: THE RAGGED (1840)

Development Season: November 2010 (Wellington, NZ)

Premier: January 2015 at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, Wellington, NZ

Return season (Repertory) January 2017 at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, Wellington, NZ

 

Part two: DOG & BONE (1869)

Development Season: August 2012 (Wellington, NZ)

Premier: January 2016 at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, Wellington, NZ

Return season (Repertory) January 2017 at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, Wellington, NZ

 

Part three: PUBLIC WORKS (1917)

Development Season: September 2016 (Massey University TheatreLab, Wellington, NZ)

Premier: January 2017 (Repertory) at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, Wellington, NZ

 

Part four: THE LANDEATERS (2020)

Development Season: November 2015 (Massey University TheatreLab, Wellington, NZ)

Premier: January 2017 (Repertory) at Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, Wellington, NZ

© 2018 by Te Rākau Hua O Te Wao Tapu Trust.

www.terakau.org

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