Written by award-winning local Briar Grace-Smith and first performed in 1999, Paraparaumu College's first foray into the play Purapurawhetū was when a Year 13 drama class performed it for an in-class assessment a number of years ago.

Now it is being performed again, this time as a school-wide production.

Originally due to be performed in May, Covid-19 turned plans upside down for the show.

Starting rehearsals in early term one, with a six week break over lockdown, the cast are now back together and a new date has been set for the curtain to rise.

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This year's show is proving a new challenge with the small cast not only having to learn an hour and a half of lines, but learn them in te reo, not a fluent language to any of the cast.

Purapurawhetū cast from back left, Sam Goldsworthy, Ewan Addy, Devlan Watkins-Ratcliffe, Jasmin Wagner, Maya Gatling (front) and Emma Huxford. Absent Alina Santos. Photo / Ella Kinge
Purapurawhetū cast from back left, Sam Goldsworthy, Ewan Addy, Devlan Watkins-Ratcliffe, Jasmin Wagner, Maya Gatling (front) and Emma Huxford. Absent Alina Santos. Photo / Ella Kinge

Purapurawhetū won Best New Zealand Play at the 1997 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards and is set in a small coastal town Te Kupenga, meaning 'The Net', which in itself is commentary on the characters' situations.

A rapid shifting between languages and styles evokes the characters' backgrounds throughout the play.

Preparation for the play has included trips to Kāpiti College Marae to learn about how tukutuku panels are woven, a reoccurring theme throughout the play.

"We went on field trips to the Kāpiti College Marae to learn about tukutuku panels to help us so we know how to portray it," said Jasmin Wagner, who plays Ramari and who has also been learning how to weave tukutuku panels in Māori class.

"I've learnt a lot more about the Māori way of life which is way different to my Pākehā way," said Alina, who plays Koro Hohepa.

"It's eye opening to see how their way of life is more based around community."

"It's a lot more challenging to learn a lot of the play in te reo," said Ewan Addy, who plays Tyler.

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"Knowing how to say it right and knowing which parts of the words and sentences need emotion or emphasis is different.

"You know how to put emotion behind words in English, but in a different language it is hard.

"You need to know the lines in te reo but also what it translates to in English so you can articulate it and deliver it properly."

"You also don't want to disrespect the language by mispronouncing everything," said Sam Goldsworthy, who plays Matawera.

"You don't understand immediately what you're saying which makes it harder," Alina said.

Working hard on te reo, the cast has had co-director Ella Kinge helping with them with pronunciation.

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"The cast were all chosen because we knew they would take care of the script, it's a very tender topic," Ella said.

"We knew this cast would look after it and honour the story."

After not being sure if they would be able to perform the play because of the lockdown, "We had to leave it up in the air and leave it to sit with them over lockdown," co-director Clare Thorley said.

"We weren't sure if we were even going to have an audience, but we're glad that we can now perform it.

"I saw the play when it came out in 1997 and it has stayed with me since then – there are only some pieces of theatre that do that.

"It is beautiful and powerful New Zealand-specific storytelling."

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There will be four shows at Paraparaumu College Auditorium on Friday, July 24 at 7pm, Saturday, July 25 at 3pm and 7pm and Sunday, July 26 at 3pm.

Tickets are available for $10 from the school office.