This excellent show, written and directed by Wellingtonian Miria George, is both an amusing exaggeration of adult-sibling bickering and a darkly comic reflection on a significant theme in Maori theatre: ties to the whenua, the land.
What happens when kaitiakitanga, guardianship, is (mis)interpreted as making money from the land, even if lakes die? What if (surprise) some members of the upper class dont care about community, even within Maoridom?
It is broad treatment of complex issues, perhaps, but the two titular characters are amusingly awful. They shun the sun like vampires, and their moral hideousness is literally highlighted by lighting designers Natala Gwiazdzinskis brief spotlight flashes in which they pull grotesque faces and hold their hands in claws.
Nicola Kawana attacks her role as the ironically named Atawhai (kindness) with the wonderful vim and maniacal laughter of a pantomime villain. Te Kohe Tuhakas false niceness as her vulture brother makes him a good foil: quieter, therefore menacing.
Erina Daniels as their sister Hinemoa is convincingly sweet. (Her scientist daughter - a fresh, energetic Ani-Piki Tuari - is named Kiwi; neither moa nor kiwi seem a match for vultures.)
Georges subtle, clever script sets up competing worldviews and battling metaphors. The vultures give slippery, sly responses: What does that mean? asks their sister, about one vague reassurance. It means the world to me! declares Atawhai, both avoiding the question and cunningly appealing to Hinemoas compassion.
Tony De Goldis humble set shows somethings skewiff, while the costumes and lighting pop against its dark simplicity. Sopheak Sengs wonderfully thoughtful costumes evoke animals and fairy tales: the vultures wear feathers while Hinemoa wears fur, to show that she herself is prey - old money perhaps, but vulnerable. Later on, she dons a red cloak, in danger like Little Red Riding Hood.
Humorous and satisfying.
What: The Vultures
When: Until Saturday
Where: Rangatira, Q Theatre