Rawiri Paratene reckons he could be the most well-travelled New Zealander in the world - and even if he's not, his travels have still made history.

The veteran stage and screen actor has returned home after spending the better part of two years on the road with Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Tour World of Hamlet. Paratene was the only non-British based actor in the 16-strong cast, which travelled 310,647 km, visiting 197 countries.

It was a never-been-done-before venture taking to heart Shakespeare's "all the world's a stage" quote. Add the countries Paratene toured to with the places he'd already been - mainly around the Pacific - and you're looking at close to 205 countries.

"I became much more aware of humanity's incredible capacity for cruelty and then, at another turn, our equally extraordinary capacity for compassion and the constant battle between the two," he says. "Every now and then, cruelty seems to be open-ended but then the victims of that cruelty reach a point and take a stand."


He's about to make history again.

After a couple of weeks off - he slept a lot but made time to see the film The Hunt for the Wilderpeople and thought it was fabulous - he's well into rehearsals for his first job back home. Paratene reprises the role of the kaumatua Hohepa in Briar Grace-Smith's Purapurawhetu. He played the part in 2010, but it's different this time round.

For the first time ever, the award-winning Purapurawhetu is being presented in full Te Reo Maori as part of this year's Matariki celebrations.

Paratene doesn't speak fluent te reo, despite having produced and starred in a te reo version of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and, years ago, been the president for the Wellington chapter of Nga Tamatoa. The social change organisation lobbied for Maori rights and was pivotal to getting the Maori Language Act passed in 1987, given Te Reo Maori official language status.

So how will he do it?

Line by line; remembering the emotion behind each one and learning the phrasing. He says Hohepa has a lot of speeches, but he's just played characters in Hamlet - mainly Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet's father - that give a lot of speeches.

17 Jun, 2016 1:30pm
2 minutes to read

"And their speeches are pages and pages long ..."

What: Purapurawhetu

Where and when: Te Pou Theatre, Portage Rd, New Lynn, July 6-9 with an English language performance on July 6; Herald Theatre, July 13-6; with an English language performance on July 13.