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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 3. 1967.

Culture richness in myth

Culture richness in myth

Between March 13-18, in the intimate surroundings of the Unity Theatre, the New Zealand Maori Theatre Trust presented James Ritchie's "He Mana Toa" (The Creation).

Here the richness of a culture has been woven in myth and fact to present a lyrical rendering of the legends of the Maori people. The programme is divided into two parts: Firstly the legendary creation of life, child of Rangi, the Skyfather, and Papa, the earthmother: and secondly a potted history, blended with tribal fantasy, of the miraculous birth and life of the Maori chieftain. Te Rauparaha. The two sequences are wedded by a prologue and epilogue in which we are introduced to the present position of the Maori in society.

The prologue was stilted and parts of the narration in the first act lacked clarity of expression and did not contain the lyrical beauty of some other New Zealand writers, notably Bruce Mason.

The integration of song, dance and dialogue was superb and the legend was enacted in rich performances which were vibrant and beautiful. Especially of note were the several tabloid scenes, the product of choreographer Lee Brewer. The set design and lighting were of a high professional calibre and sound effects were realistic. The visual and verbal poetry of the entire performance deserved praise.

The second sequence lacked the technical perfection of the first. Although the narration was improved and forceful the act suffered from the presence of a "Greek chorus" of mini-skirted Maori girls and from the mis-casting of Bill Keri Keri as Te Rauparaha (the older', who did not appear to have the necessary arrogance and power to present the aristocratic character of the chief. Only in his dying words when he is surrounded by wailing, lamenting women was he at his best.

The play was interspersed with chants, hakas, laments, songs, poi movements and dancing. It was a unique contemporary enactment of the Maori folk tradition, which should make their audiences more proud of the New Zealand heritage and worthy of a wider viewing on a national scale.