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  • Alia Marshall

Review: Two Guitars

Words by: Alia Marshall (she/they)

“Being cool? Yeah, tino māori.” This line from Two Guitars sums up exactly how I felt after leaving the show, and has been stuck in my head since I watched the opening on Saturday. Written by Jamie McCaskill and directed by Carrie Green, this meaningful and challenging comedy has a little treat for everyone, the theatre lovers, the music lovers, even your uncle who’s only seen Phantom of the Opera on DVD.  


After a lovely but incredibly tiring day at CubaDupa (shouts out to the team who put it on) my friend and I are excited for a chill 80 minutes of music and fun. The set (Ian Harman) is stripped back but as the lights dim it becomes clear this is the green room where the majority of the action takes place. It’s great fun noticing the little details that add to the greenroom feel like the snacks station, we smell slight hints of gentrification with the conference screen in front of the weave pattern on the wall. The show opens with our two characters, Te Pou (Jamie McCaskill) and Billy (Cameron Clayton), performing a waiata full of cheek and charm. From the get go, I’m obsessed with their chemistry when they’re singing together, it’s a shame it was a seated performance because I would’ve absolutely gotten up for a boogie.  


Now, one thing about me, is I love a ‘big game’ or ‘big concert’ moment, working up to the make it or break it moment for the characters is a classic and really satisfying narrative device. Two Guitars focuses on the pair as they prepare for their ‘big concert’, a live performance of the songs that helped them win a māori singing competition. However, as two māori who missed the reo bus and weren’t part of the kohanga generation, are they even ‘māori enough’ to be there? Not only are Te Pou and Billy at odds with one another, but also with their own sense of identity, their own ‘māori-ness’. It’s a story that urgently needs telling, so many third generation māori who were alienated from te ao māori find themselves feeling like they don’t belong in their own world.  


The performance from our two characters is stellar, they move between comedy and vulnerability effortlessly - the ‘UNDIES’ line is another one of my faves - though I find myself wanting to see a few more moments of unity between the pair. This is remedied at the very end with a small but vital exchange between them, two words carrying so much weight bring them together like the gorgeous harmonies we hear throughout the show. I felt as though some parts of the dialogue/blocking could have been tightened or made to flow a bit better with some small tweaks to the script and direction, but on the whole it truly is a lovely night out at the theatre.  


The musical direction is slick and seamless, some of the songs are written by the members of the cast so kudos to them. There’s some excellent moments with the lighting (Tayla Pilcher) which really add to the experience, a single, delayed spotlight on Te Pou is a small but key moment that really stood out to me.  


Two Guitars questions what it means to be māori and doesn’t act like there’s one single answer. Rather, as summed up nicely by Te Pou: ‘You be a You Māori. And I’ll be a Me Māori. And Billy will be a Him Māori.’ 


Two Guitars is on in Circa One until the 13th of April.  


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