More than 20 years after the English version was first performed, the classic Kiwi thriller

Mo and Jess kill Susie

has been translated into te reo Maori for a series of shows in Auckland and Northland.

The play's three complex female characters - Mo, Jess and Susie - were first brought to life by award-winning playwright Gary Henderson in 1996.

Their dialogue and unique stories have now been resurrected after a team of four fluent te reo Maori speakers - Ani-Piki Tuari, Hania Douglas, Te Aorere Pewhairangi, Tawaroa Kawana - translated the play late last year.

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The te reo Maori translation, E Kore A Muri E Hokia (which roughly translates to "there is no going back" or "what is done is done"), is directed by Tainui Tukiwhao. It will be performed in Auckland next week and in Whangerei and Kaitaia in early May.

Tuari, the project's head translator, said it wasn't often that a modern play which was originally written in English was performed in te reo Maori.

"Most te reo Maori plays are either children's plays or plays like Shakespeare or really dated plays."

She told the Herald on Sunday she hoped E Kore A Muri E Hokia "normalises te reo Maori so that it becomes accessible to people and it doesn't come across as intimidating".

It also has a powerful social message about how Maori can be wrongly stereotyped by non-Maori as "unintelligent people ... who are incapable to think or do things for themselves".

"It's a very confronting piece for myself as a Maori," Tuari said.

"These women are a reflection of how Maori can be seen today, without knowing their back story. It is showcasing something that is already happening now and something that has been happening for a long time.

"But in this play we get to know why, we get to understand who they are and discover why these characters are doing what they're doing. These characters in the play are women who are actually really quite strong women and they're trying to make a difference and they've got into a really sticky and bad situation and they're just trying to survive out of that."

The hostage drama of Mo and Jess kill Susie explores historical tensions between Maori and Pakeha, referencing the Motua Gardens protest in Whanganui in 1995.

Henderson said in the original 1996 production he was "trying to get to the human story behind the political action".

"In the end politics only means anything at the point where it intersects with your life and affects what you do and how you live."

He told the Herald on Sunday he was looking forward to seeing E Kore A Muri E Hokia onstage.

"I get excited when people get inspired by something I've written and it takes them on kind of an exploratory journey that I couldn't have got to myself.

"When people think of great ideas - simple things like how it could be lit, how it could look onstage or what aspect of this character they're going to emphasise compared to the last production - I get really excited about that because it makes the play feel like a living creature. You know that lots of people have put energy into it and created this piece of art."

• For tickets to E Kore a Muri e Hokia, go to: iticket.co.nz