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Theatre Review: Witi’s Wahine

Maori writer Witi Itimaera is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most beloved novelists. His beautifully written stories have become world famous and tell evocative tales about his culture, his whanau, and his whenua. His stories are imbued with the spirit and legacy of strong wahine both from Māori legends, history, and from his own whakapapa. 

This year marks fifty years of Witi’s first published work, Tangi. To recognise that a new production of Witi’s Wahine, written by the late Nancy Brunning is back on stage thanks to the Auckland Theatre Company. 

The production is a series of vignettes that bring to life some of the powerful women from Ihimaera’s books such as The Parihaka Woman, The Matriarch, and Pounamu Pounamu.

At the core of this masterful production are four dynamic and mesmerising performers – Roimata Fox, Awhina-Rose Henare Ashby, Pehia King, and Olivia Violet Robinson-Falconer. This quartet bring mana and aroha to a variety of roles. They act as both narrators and characters and flow from one to the other with ease.  

Assisting them are four other wahine the talented Raiha Moetara, Matawai Hanatia Winiata, Pepi-Ria Moetara-Pokai, and Maramaria Ki-Tihirahi Moetara. 

Together these women weave these wonderful tales into a beautiful mosaic, and when they come together in song, the result is beautifully harmonic. 

And what stories these are! Told in a more traditional form with narration direct to the audience and then followed by scenes that depict moments of tenderness, and at times searing drama. There are also moments of hilarity, moments of grief, and moments of sheer wonder. 

It is hard to pick a favourite moment. The dramatic retelling of the battles of Te Kooti was incredibly powerful, yet so too were scenes depicting reminiscences of a young soldiers death in Tunisia, or a kuia descending into the fog of dementia.

It was all so masterfully done, so replete with wairua and a powerful sense of female energy and pride. 

Witi’s Wahine is a provocative, wonderful piece of theatre that covers the entire spectrum of human experience. It is a testament to te ao Maori and the women who take centre place within it. 

WITI’S WAHINE 

2-20 May 2023

Bookings and information 

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