A Whangārei production which started as a school assignment and ended up wowing audiences in the capital has now been named "production of the year" by a Wellington magazine.
Waiora: Te-Ū-Kai-Po (The Homeland) was Whangārei Girls' High School's 2017 graduation production which became the first play by the school to return for a second season due to high demand, and be performed in Wellington after an invitation from the playwright Hone Kouka.
The show received rave reviews when it was performed at the Hannah Playhouse in June last year as part of indigenous performing arts festival Kia Mau.
Now a writer from Wellington Regional News, a lifestyle and entertainment publication, has said with "no hesitation" that it was the "best production of the year".
Whangārei Girls' High School drama teacher and play director Bill Walker was "delighted".
"It justified all the effort to get it there. It's a really good thing for Whangārei and all the people who got behind it," he said.
Wāhine Works, a production company of the ex-Whangārei Girls High School students, tirelessly fundraised to take the play to the capital last year.
"It was always on the borderline, we were always behind the eight ball - getting 40-odd thousand in the space of three months, we were always behind," Walker said.
"We took advantage of cheap plane tickets so we were spending money even though we weren't sure we were going or not and every time we were at the point of not going somebody would come in with a sum of money."
The hard work paid off.
The show, which is set in the 1960s and follows a Māori family who move away from their home town Waiora to the new Pākehā world in the South Island, received rave reviews and Walker said the opening night was "perfect".
Recently the The Pantograph Punch, an online arts and culture publication, said in a piece celebrating New Zealand Theatre in 2018 that Waiora was a production of astonishing power.
Walker said Waiora was just one example of the high standard of theatre being produced in Northland.
"What's happening up in Northland is top quality. The Company of Giants work is really good, that production on Mama Mia that was on - I'd seen three other productions - that was easily the best. We've got to get some support for funding theatre here."