As part of Te Pou's Rangitahi season for emerging artists, Wellington-trained actor Trae Te Wiki, 25, has written this gentle Maori fantasy drama and acts in it with her charming 11-year-old sister Tial.

Beneath Skin and Bone starts with waiata and playful shadow dancing, supported by a three-piece band, before changing mood to something a little more sober. Undergoing a "quarter life crisis", Poto is visited by a mischievous patupaiarehe (a forest fairy-like being), and tries to come to terms with the history of her whanau.

That remains somewhat mysterious throughout; it's never explained why Poto's jokes are taken badly by her elders. But one exchange neatly sums up a perennial family debate: the tupuna are around us "protecting and guiding us", says the patupaiarehe. "Watching us," retorts Poto, not trusting such surveillance.

The plot is a little hard to follow and the purpose of some scenes is unclear. But director Neenah Dekkers-Reihana gives the play a lingering, lyrical pace through several instances of dance and waiata.


It's a nice change to be given space to breathe.

What: Beneath Skin and Bone
Where & when: Te Pou (the home of Maori theatre in Auckland), New Lynn; until Saturday
Reviewed by: Janet McAllister