When the game split us apart

The 1981 Springbok tour divided New Zealanders - now a play will re-ignite the high emotions of that time.

Te Karakia, part of the New Zealand International Arts Festival in Wellington, is a love story set in the time of the tour.

The play follows a Pakeha man called Matt and a Maori woman called Ranea from the age of 9 to adulthood.

Miriama McDowell, who plays Ranea, said an event in the two friends' lives tears them apart. The tour throws them back together when Matt, who has become a policeman, is reunited with Ranea and forced to confront his past.

"The Springbok tour was a time when every New Zealander stood up and took a stand," she said. "You couldn't really sit on the fence during that time in our history."

McDowell said the cast of six debated and talked throughout rehearsals.

"I think it is going to be one of those plays that people walk away from it and want to go away and sit down and have a good old yack."

McDowell said she was excited about being in the play because her dad had been involved in the tour as a protester.

Award-winning Auckland playwright Albert Belz was inspired to write the play in response to the outcry about the foreshore and seabed row in 2004, she said.

"The biggest theme of all in the play is - when do you actually stand up and say what you believe in," she said.

McDowell, 28, graduated from New Zealand Drama School Toi Whakaari in 2002. Since then she has done theatre, radio, television and also played the character Hibiscus in the New Zealand feature film No 2.

She said playing Ranea had been a great challenge because she had had to play a character from a child to an adult.

"It is quite different from anything I have ever played, really, because I get the freedom to be so playful when I am young and that means that as I grow older I can still keep that playfulness."

- NZPA

Te Karakia runs from next Wednesday until March 4 at Downstage theatre in Wellington. The International Arts Festival runs until March 16.

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