The opening night of Michael James Manaia was truly an education. This iconic piece of Kiwi theatre by John Broughton had been restaged for 2012.
The show covers not only the history of one man but also the history and culture of Aotearoa itself incorporating stories and legends in to the mix.
The play begins with a karakia before Michael James Manaia introduces himself as Mick. He is a charismatic story teller who brings as many laughs as he does evoke heartfelt emotion.
The play references the time line of the story throughout via snippets of songs brilliantly sung by Michael himself.
Te Kohe Tuhaka as Michael James Manaia – photo by Philip Merry
The story unfolds in a somewhat positive tone with only a hint of the darkness underneath which will inevitable boil over as the story develops.
And develop it does as this play explodes with intense energy both mentally and physically making Te Kohe Tuhaka’s performance even more impressive. This is a very demanding part which definitely requires a certain type of performer who is willing to take it on. It is clear to the audience that he has fully embraced and committed to this character.
Talking to Te Kohe after the show he described the play as ‘an actor’s dream’ due to the breadth of emotion and physicality involved. It is almost exhausting watching him weave and jump around the space of the Loft at Q Theatre. He continued to say that Michael James Manaia is like that guy we all know in the pub who is just a great story teller but there is always another side, and for this character that side is rather tragic.
The themes of the play range from his identity as a New Zealander of half Maori half British decent while asking questions around masculinity, fatherhood, violence and war. It’s brave explorations around loss and grief makes for difficult viewing at times but allows us to confront these painful facts of life that we mostly put to the back of our minds.
Michael James Manaia takes us on cultural and human journey told from a uniquely New Zealand voice.
Showing until 15 September. For ticket information click here.
Cast Te Kohe Tuhaka (Ngati Porou)
Writer John Broughton (Ngati Kahungunu Ki Heretaunga, Ngai Tahu)
Director Nathaniel Lees
Sound Designer/Musician Maaka McGregor (Ngati Raukawa)
Lighting Designer Lisa Maule
Set/Costume/Props Designer Daniel Williams
Produced by: Taki Rua
*Please Note that “Michael James Manaia” contains Strobe effects, explosive sound effects, and strong language.