The Herald Theatre, as part of the Auckland Live festival, is playing host to the Waiti production of Ngā Puke, the beautifully written John Broughton two-hander.
The actors Simone Walker and Kimo Houltham, along with director and producer Cian Elyse White, have a strong track record with this play – White made her debut as s director with this play previously in Auckland – and all three have worked together in Rotorua amongst other places.
A simple two-act play, the story revolves around a young Māori farmer and aspiring artist meeting in Hawkes Bay before the second world war. Their firey introduction and subsequent growing closer as they come to know and understand each other is both funny and touching. The glaring differences are quickly recognised as parallel lines.
The text and performances are remarkable in really evoking the setting. And, as Waru and Angie circle each other, the subtle gestures and jokes between them, intertwined with Waru’s explanation of the everyday and mythological connection between the people and the land, allows the characters to really blossom and get to know each other and the audience are drawn into their story and growing romance.
The second act shifts to Crete amidst the second world war and the delicate touches and prose of the first are replaced by the clash and suffering of war. The balance between the characters shifts, opening up new angles to allow them to know each other and themselves even better.
Throughout the lush music of the era reminds you of a time when people would get to know each other as whole people and not 2-dimensional representations and so be more able and willing to understand and bridge divisions between them. Actors Simone as Angie and Kimo as Waru really are remarkable in their balanced and lovingly choreographed performances.
The journey to the end of the play was shared by audience and actors alike and together we celebrated in a story and performance that resonates through time as we mark the centenary of the Māori Battalion and the 30th birthday of the play itself.
Only available as a short run, this production of Ngā Puke is a heartwarming and beautiful experience that should be enjoyed by as many as possible. A jewel of a play, this Maori classic is an elegant dance of love in wartime.
Reviewed by Mike Hales.