These two surprising Matariki shows are very different, but both use interesting music to express Maori masculinity. I Ain't Mad at Cha is a miniature gem of a naturalistic rap musical that rings emotionally true. A perceptive and enjoyable comic drama, it follows a few days in the life of unofficial school rap battle champion Kiwa (an excellent Tyler Wilson-Kokiri).
Like Nathan Joe in his recent play Like Sex, young playwright Turene Jones brilliantly portrays adolescence as full of social complexities but focuses on cultural identity, discrimination and internalised racism. The rap battles are a highlight; amusingly, Kiwa gets stick for rhyming "tea" with "Billy T". Pleasingly, the white girl gets to rhyme as well as the boys and the contender for Kiwa's crown is a second generation Indian New Zealander.
The frustration of the young Maori men at not being heard by authority figures is palpable and moving. In contrast, the romance sub-plot is chock full of problematic gender stereotypes but its last scene satisfies. Director Jatinder Singh's clever, simple set speeds up shifts between the short scenes. Fantastic value at only $20 and I look forward to seeing more of Jones' work.
Poropiti (The Prophet), a collaboration between theatre practitioner Tola Newberry and musician Mara TK, is a more oblique, solemn presentation encompassing past and present. Similar to MAU shows, the moving tableaux are slowly and deliberately paced (within Glenn Ashworth's dramatically tight lighting). Poropiti also judiciously uses limited language, beautiful a capella, string and flute samples, live guitar and video to show creation myth, the passive resistance of Parihaka ploughing and present pleasures and frustrations.
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Unusually for theatre, male bodies are on display, knees first and then torsos, as the two performers swap rich korowai cloaks for sweatpants. These final costumes offer a touch of dereliction; perhaps the piece is suggesting that we leave the prophets of today lying in the streets.
What: I Ain't Mad at Cha and Poropiti
Where & when: The Basement, Greys Ave; until Saturday
Reviewer: Janet McAllister