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  • Ashleigh Putt-Fallows

Review: Hāpaitia—Fringe Festival

Words by Ashleigh Putt-Fallows (she/her)

Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Tūhoe

Hāpaitia, created by Parekawa Finlay and Raureti Ormond and produced by Te Auaha, was an incredibly insightful and significant show that explored themes of the Māori mind and emotion intertwined with Te Ao Māori, our history, our whakapapa and our connection to those. 

As I walked in, I immediately noticed the set ambience: one suitcase filled with dirt in the middle of the stage, and more falling in. Lighting and sound cemented this effect; mimicking natural light, the ambient sound, soft but present. The show opens with Tīmata, a beautifully written monologue and waiata that highlights the strong connection between the performer and Papatūānuku through their tūpuna. It brings to mind memories of tūpuna on the marae. Then starts Te Kaikohi, where Parekawa explores the internal colonisation of her mind and her journey to free herself from the colonial mindset. With an outstanding balance and smooth transition of humour and serious discussion, she talks about Horatio Robley—a coloniser from the 1860s—his part in our history in and around the Waikato invasion during the Māori land wars. She bares her whole self, in a confronting yet validating first half. 

This was complemented by special lighting and sound design, which helped demonstrate emotion and attitudes at the time and connected her kōrero back to the Tikanga of Māori people. Parekawa beautifully explains Tikanga Māori to help illustrate just how different these attitudes were. Raureti then launches into Te Whio, the whistle, which utilises an ensemble to demonstrate some possible kōrero from the victims of the Tangiwai Disaster. Set on Christmas Eve 1953, the kōrero and waiata provide an emotional experience as you, as the audience, watch the characters give their own lives and the chance to ever see home again. It's a touching and thought-provoking piece that brings us into the lives of those victims. It was evident that much effort had gone into how the waiata was sung and how they sounded, including what different harmonies, emphasises and quiet moments would tell the audience about a particular character or the group. The choreography was well-matched and executed with great timing.

The lighting, along with the costumes and props, effectively conveyed the setting and time period. The ending, Mutunga, had an almost whanau vibe, encouraged by the use of 'Country Roads' by John Denver between Raureti and Parekawa, as they brought us back to the main themes, our connection to te ao, and to each other. 

The show and its cast did an exceptional job of highlighting complex topics while also incorporating elements from te ao Māori, making it accessible and engaging for all viewers.I believe there is still room for improvement in the waiata and chorus sections, but overall, I would encourage everyone to see this show and truly listen to its message. My one critique would be that it should have a longer run time than just four days.


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