Māori plays reign supreme at awards

A theatre producer has called for more plays in te reo after two Māori productions were honoured last night at the Auckland Theatre Awards.

A panel of judges chose E Kore A Muri E Hokia, a Māori language adaptation of the play Mo and Jess Kill Suzie, and the performance by Rutene Spooner in his one-man show Super Hugh-man, as two of the best plays of the year performed in Auckland.

“It is a big deal to be recognized,” says Amber Curreen of Te Rehia Theatre and producer of E Kore A Muri E Hokia.  

“We’re trying to give our language more mana and to break the mould of people who have a low tolerance for our reo being spoken in public.”

The event was held at the Civic Theatre’s Wintergarden and was attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Curreen has been producing plays in te reo since 2009 with Te Rehia and Te Pou Theatre.

They adapted into Māori the play Mo and Jess Kill Suzie by Pakeha writer Gary Henderson to make the language more assessable to theater audiences.

The translation was led by Ani Piki Tuari with a team that included Te Aorere Pewhairangi, Tawaroa Kawana, and Hania Douglas.

“This is Ani Piki’s first adaptation and she was awarded for it. That’s a real testament to her mahi.”

She says Te Rehia is committed to producing a new play in Māori each year, and she is currently developing a major work for 2018.

“We want to show our language belongs to our main stages, that it can have mainstream appeal.”

Meanwhile, Rutene Spooner is ecstatic to be honoured for his one-man show Super Hugh-man – a musical tribute to his idol Hugh Jackman and a cabaret that includes show tunes and kapa haka.

“There’s lots of amazing theatre makers who are creating great work in Auckland this year. To be recognised for my mahi is very humbling,” he says.

In the People’s Choice category, I Aint Mad at Cha, won the best show by emerging artists. The team included Turene Jones (writer), Jatinder Singh (director) and Ngahiriwa Rauhina (producer) of Waitī Productions.