The show must go on – and former Shortland Street star Jarod Rawiri is one of those behind a novel initiative to ensure it does for one Auckland theatre organisation.

Rawiri, who played Mo Hannah on the week nightly soap until 2018, has joined with Te Pou Theatre's Amber Curreen and Tainui Tukiwaho on reviving an old way – at least, for now - to bring live shows to the community.

Like many arts organisations, Henderson-based Te Pou has had to re-think its 2020 programme because of Covid-19, which halted plans to present four shows and two festivals this year. Instead, it will do what theatre companies of old did and take its work on the road in a series of Front Yard Festivals for isolated people and groups.

Rawiri brings to the project extensive experience in street performance as a member of the White Face Crew, a hip-hop dance, theatre and clowning group he founded with Justin Haiu and Tama Jarman.

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Tainui Tukiwaho is one of the creators of the Front Yard Festival, taking live theatre to the people.
Tainui Tukiwaho is one of the creators of the Front Yard Festival, taking live theatre to the people.

For the Front Yard Festival, two separate groups of travelling players will perform 10 minute music and storytelling shows at different places and times to entertain without breaking any bubbles or rules about the number of people who can gather together. The shows are designed with residents in aged care facilities and organisations working with people who are ill or immunocompromised in mind.

Curreen, who's producing the Front Yard Festival, says each year Te Pou – the home of Māori theatre in Auckland – puts on special performances for the most vulnerable in communities especially koroua and kuia.

She says the Front Yard Festival seemed like a great way to reach a vital audience without compromising anyone's well-being. The idea came from Tukiwaho, best known for playing Billy T James and roles in Outrageous Fortune and The Almighty Johnsons, who recalled something he'd seen in England several years ago.

Travelling from London to Manchester by train, he passed by a house close to the tracks. Emblazoned across the curtains were the words 'two second theatre' and when the train motored by, the curtains were open for an ever-so-brief window performance.

"I've never forgotten it and thought it was a fun and entertaining idea," he says.

Amber Curreen says Te Pou's Front Yard Festivals will keep audiences entertained and actors employed. Photo / Michael Craig
Amber Curreen says Te Pou's Front Yard Festivals will keep audiences entertained and actors employed. Photo / Michael Craig

Both Tukiwaho and Curreen say the emphasis is on uplifting performances, featuring music and mime. While he and Rawiri direct – one team each – Regan Taylor (Māori Sidesteps), Tuakoi Ohia, Acushla-Tara Kupe, Tom Knowles, Jess Hong and Edmund Eramiha perform.

Curreen says it was also important to provide chances for actors to keep working.

"These travelling shows also mean we can provide opportunities for artists to create and perform during this challenging time for the arts sector."

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