Tahi Ao/One World
Review by Hawkes Bay Today
Written by Daniel Betty
Directed by Daniel Betty and Peter Cottrell
30 June Napier Little Theatre – 1 July Lindisfarne College
11 July – 19 July 2016 in Australia
Twelve young members of Hawkes Bay Youth Theatre, (HaBYT) have collaborated with directors Daniel Betty and Peter Cottrell on this production and, in Betty’s own words, have ‘risen to the challenge, engaging, moulding, adapting and owning their characters’ – to a point where they delivered searching, hard-hitting and relentlessly truthful vignettes that represent life’s struggles and unanswered questions in a deep and meaningful context.
The context is wrapped in mythical beginnings from the violent separation of Papatuanuku and Ranginui, Earth Mother and Sky Father, who gave spiritual meaning to life. Problems and conflicts ensue the further away from the union they drift and each player performed part of the quest. Tahi Ao is the perfect vehicle to allow young actors explore and extend their acting abilities. Each member of the cast had their moment in the sun, bringing a fervent, disarming truth to each individual vignette. Their passionate deliveries, their skilful and mature interpretations of a range of conflicts were impressive.
Symbolism was used effectively throughout, with a minimum of props and virtually no set apart from the physical use of bodies. The scope of this tool stretched from becoming walls to waves, crowds to single ideas, elaborate and simple, imagined and mythical, melting away and materialising as something else, constantly forming and re-forming intricate and fluid scene changes that demanded little other than engagement from the audience. The strong thread of theatre technique and conventions, and the confident deliveries by every single cast member were testament to some wonderful work in the build up, a credit to Betty and Cottrell’s teaching skills.
Selected pieces of background music played behind the narratives adding subtle and poignant emphasis to mood changes but mostly it was the warmth and one-ness in the cast that unified the pieces to make one story and the power of the pieces had most integrity when the viewpoint is their own age group.
The story is universal, even if the beginnings are within our own understanding of Maori mythology, and to test this, HaBYT are about to embark on an overseas trip to present these questions and problems to Australian audiences. This will be a true challenge of the connectivity of young minds across cultures, but, judging by the reception and the performances last night, the trip will be a resounding success.