Entertainment | Theatre

Award-winning theatre stalwarts bring circus theatre and kaupapa Māori to the stage

Te Tangi a te Tūī will debut at Te Pou Theatre in Auckland next mponth

Two stalwarts in indigenous theatre and co-founders of Te Pou, the home of Māori theatre in Auckland, have won major awards recognising their contribution to the theatre industry.

This week, Tainui Tukiwaho was awarded the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award and last month Amber Curreen was awarded Creative New Zealand’s Ngā Tohu Hautūtanga Auaha Toi – Making a Difference Award.

They have also been nominated for multiple awards for their shows KŌPŪ and The Sun and the Wind at the 2023 Wellington Theatre Awards.

The pair’s latest project is a collaboration with The Dust Palace, called Te Tangi a te Tūī. The show combines Māori theatre and circus performance and will debut in Auckland in March.

“There are many reasons to be excited about bringing Te Tangi a Te Tūī to Aotearoa. It’s for our people and showcases te reo Māori with circus traditions,” Tukiwaho says .

On winning the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award, which he received yesterday, Tainui says it’s a privilege to be acknowledged alongside other Māori playwrights who have previously received the honour, including Nancy Brunning, Albert Belz, Whiti Hereaka, Hone Kouka, Briar Grace-Smith, Mitch Tawhi Thomas, and Miria George.

Te Tangi a te Tūī

‘Not an easy road’'

“When I look back over the years and see the list of recipients, they are people I have admired throughout my career and who I’ve held in high esteem.”

Curreen says her award is a tribute to all of the indigenous theatre practitioners who worked hard to open Te Pou Theatre in Auckland in 2015 so there could be a home for Māori storytellers.

“It’s not an easy road opening a new whare whakaari. It feels uplifting to have this kind of recognition from the arts sector. We aim to make a difference. That is our motivation.”

Tukiwaho and Curreen co-wrote Te Tangi a te Tūī, with Tainui directing. They flew to Canada in November to present the work with a team of 14 cast and crew members.

Through traditional Māori performance and circus acrobatics, Te Tangi a te Tūī (The Song of the Tūī) tells an original story inspired by the native bird’s song and explores themes of change, loss in the face of colonial impact

“The response from the Canadian audience was amazing.

‘Where to from here for rangatahi?

The indigenous people in the audience were so touched by having the show in the indigenous Māori language.

“”They came and cried and told us how special it was afterward,” says Amber.

Producer Rachel Dubois, of The Dust Palace, says the team are looking forward to bringing the spectacle to Te Pou Theatre for local audiences to enjoy.

“The show blends many elements: circus, theatre, Te Reo Māori, music and visual storytelling. It explores ancient and contemporary themes through the characters and asks the question of where to from here for our rangatahi?”

Te Tangi a te Tūī will debut at Te Pou Theatre in Auckland from March 1-10.


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