After his serious day job, actor loves a bit of fun on stage.

Actor Jarod Rawiri's Shortland Street character Mo Hannah sees a lot of serious drama, so it's not surprising he sometimes feels like clowning around.

This week he returns to the stage in a role that's streets away from solo dad Mo. Rawiri is part of White Face Crew, a hip-hop dance, theatre and clowning group he founded with Justin Haiu and Tama Jarman.

"I'll be going straight from the TV studio in my Mo makeup to the Basement Theatre to put on my white-face makeup and transform myself into a kind of clown/usher and I can't wait," Rawiri says. "I love being on stage with Justin and Tama, having fun and making stuff."

White Face Crew reprises its show La Vie dans une Marionette for the Basement Theatre's Matariki season.


It centres on a lonely pianist and the puppets he befriends. Rawiri says it's a whimsical show about friendship, love and loss. The trio last performed it in 2013 and critics called it "hot, hilarious and happening".

"I didn't think we'd get the chance to do it again because Tama took two years off to sojourn around the world and it's his story," he says.

"He wrote it and there's no way we would have done it without him, but now he's back and we got to talking about this funny show we made many moons ago and thought, 'maybe we should do it again'."

Rawiri says because Matariki is about celebrating new life, it's great to see visual and performing artists creating innovative work that respects and recognises the contributions of various cultures. "People are embracing Matariki and the idea that it's a time of renewal. It's the middle of winter, but it's a reminder to step outside, look around and see the fresh and the new because there are exciting ideas coming out and great stuff being made."

White Face Crew began when Rawiri, Haiu and Jarman were touring the world with play The Arrival. They started doing skits on the street - "holding imaginary doors open" - and people would watch.

Returning home, they developed the idea and were booked to appear at street festivals in and around Auckland. You're just as likely to find White Face Crew performing in a park or square as you are in a theatre.

"It's about creating a magic moment with someone; about being playful and letting people step outside themselves for a minute or two."

La Vie dans une Marionette is at the Basement Theatre Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm. Its Matariki programme includes Hine and Glimmer and exhibitions, music and spoken performances.