U N D E R T O W  


Kaituhi / Playwright - Helen Pearse-Otene

Kaitohu / Director - Jim Moriarty

TV Concept / Co-Producer / D.O.P - Waka Attewell nzcs

Kaihautū / Producer - Te Rākau & Aneta Pond

When The Undertow was performed at Te Papa Tongarewa in 2017, it was filmed by renowned cinematographer Waka Attewell. What he captured is being re-imagined as a feature film a four chapter TV series, that premiered on Māori Television in October 2019

All four chapters of the TV series are now available On Demand on Māori Television here.

The publishing of the plays is in the design stage and will be available to purchase in March 2020.

See here for more about the UNDERTOW projects:

Through the 180 year journey of six generations of one family, pivotal moments in Aotearoa's history are brought to life. 


From the arrival of the first settler ships and the gentrified Port Nicholson, to our complex war history and current day urban development, UNDERTOW is a bold and fearless journey into our country’s past, present and future.

It is the story of both Māori and Pākeha, of ordinary people who lived during extraordinary times in Aotearoa’s history, and the timeless pursuit of somewhere to call home.

Nearly two centuries of Māori-Pākehā relationship are distilled and played out against the backdrop of fictitious kāinga, Te Miti, deftly articulating universal truths about the effects of colonisation.


“Te Rākau have made a spectacle that’s vital and unlike anything being made 

in Wellington, and perhaps in New Zealand, today.
It’s audacious, often beautiful and a welcome antidote to the state-of-the-nation plays that 

too often avoid wrangling with the colonial pollution of New Zealand's history. 

It’s an uncompromising communication of the poison that runs deep in our land, a powerful challenge 

to remember a history that never stopped living, and a stirring invitation f

or us to come together, to connect, and to start healing.”
Pantograph Punch | Adam Goodall

Ngau Whiore

“Tail biting”

enduring shame

seemingly unshiftable

lashed, locked

encased in

every cell

wicked demon

cunning cavorted

ever present

who gave permission?

from whence originating?

that those you

co : create




to a living hell

in one form

or another


will not bite back

Te Rākau has received funding from Creative New Zealand to present our latest work THE SWING to an invited audience from Government, Council, Health and service providers, Counsellors and Psychologists, Iwi, Māori community advocates and Education. These organisations, representatives, or individuals are largely charged with the job of tackling big issues facing New Zealanders, and particularly Māori. There is an urgent need for strategies, resources, and hands-on engagement with the problems our people are facing.


THE SWING is a Theatre Marae project that seeks to unravel the shame and hurt that clouds & distorts the subjects of sexual abuse and suicide, and is a creative, therapeutic, and kaupapa Māori response to these issues.  


The research has occurred over 20 years of working with whānau (both rangatahi and pakeke), in the community and in prisons, caught up in the clutches of family violence and sexual harm. Our mahi has included youth residential facilities with both so termed victims and perpetrators.


Writer Helen Pearse-Otene is a registered and practising Psychologist pursuing her PHD and Jim is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse. They have spent the last few months working therapeutically with a group of women who were sexually harmed by family members, in response-based practices, exploring ways of moving forward. Jim and Helen have brought this work to the rehearsal room floor as Directors to inform rehearsals.


Through the story of one whānau dealing with incest and suicide, mirrored by the the pūrakau of Tāne Mahuta and Hine Nui Te Po, and processes of restoration THE SWING takes a detailed, researched and caring account on one family’s attempt to manage Ngau Whiore.

Contact us if you'd like more information, or to support the project in some way.

T H E   B A T T A L I O N


Te Rākau is thrilled to have received fudging to tour a product of THE BATTALION with rangatahi from the Greater Wellington Region to Rēkohu - Chatham Islands. It is an rote that has its challenges for a touring company, but we are determined to work with the community and make it work.

The population over the two largest Islands is approximately 600, with nearly 60% identifying as Māori and 14% as fluent in Te Reo Māori.


T H E   B A T T A L I O N 


The Battalion is a powerful work about friendship, loyalty, and the lost innocence of youth

- where the adventure of war is played out to the bitter end.

There has been, in recent years, a renewed public interest in the Māori Battalion and in national ANZAC day commemorations. There has been a huge increase in adults enrolling in courses to learn Te Reo and petitions to resource and teach more Reo and NZ History in our schools.

Many members of the Māori Battalion were just kids, as young as 15, when they left for WWII, and seeing these soldiers portrayed by actual rangatahi, of that age, is a powerful and sobering experience. These rangatahi completely inhabit the world of the production. With their passion and aroha, they give back to us new understanding, new perspectives and the opportunity to heal the wrongs of the past.

The power of the work is in seeing young people completely inhabit the world of the production, playing roles we usually associate with adults with passion, sincerity and aroha. Many members of the Māori Battalion were just kids when they left, and seeing them portrayed by actual rangatahi is a powerful and sobering experience.

Our vision for The Battalion is a theatrical length television-event for screening ANZAC Day 2020.

A TV version of the stage production of The Battalion will be a stirring, emotional and rewarding experience for audiences.

“There is something poignantly moving about watching kids of diverse cultures acting out roles

that their grandparents, great-grandparents or in this case, given how young they are,

great great grandparents lived for real. 

At one stage my hair is prickling at the back of my neck and I feel tears welling… ” 

Maraea Rakuraku for Theatreview


Te Rākau is developing a product that would provide an immersive experience for Tourists and New Zealanders alike, that encompasses tikanga, manaakitanga, matauranga Māori and Māori stories.


Our vision is for evening events in Wellington over the Summer tourism period that include a performance of Helen Pearse-Otene’s critically acclaimed play The Battalion by a mix of professional and rangatahi performers, a traditional Māori hangi dinner, and an open korero where audiences can share their stories, and waiata and traditions; ask questions of the cast and creators; and share their reflections.

The project wILL employ up to 50 local Māori as performers, Production staff, caterers, and manaakitanga/front-of-house. It would be a draw-card for Wellington as a unique Tourism experience, and would give rangatahi the opportunity to work with a professional Theatre Company that promotes aroha, fosters whanaungatanga, enhances the mana of everyone involved, and wraps them in a kaupapa Māori environment that is nurturing and holistic.