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  • Writer's pictureTE RĀKAU

'A damn good yarn' – The Battalion

Updated: May 8

Te Ahi Kaa, Radio New Zealand | 26 April 2015

Radio New Zealand interviews Director Jim Moriarty about the origins of the iconic play, The Battalion.


A young performer in blood stained uniform cowers
Jim says The Battalion pays tribute to WWII's Māori Battalion | Mark Coote 2022

Te Rakau Hua o te Wao Tapu Trust is a theatre company that has performed in prisons, schools, marae, and even in the lounges of homes. Ngāti Toa actor Jim Moriarty has worked in film, television and theatre for the last forty years.

The trust has performed the play, The Battalion since 2002, the stories main characters Georgia, Rimene and World War II veteran Paora. There are secrets that bubble to the surface, and Paora (played by Moriarty) is haunted by his past where he left his brother, thought to be dead, in Crete.

The highly charged play uses dance, kapahaka, and waiata to tell the story.

Written by Helen Pearse-Otene, Jim explains the story and the importance of honouring māori men who served overseas.

"The genesis of this story comes from when Helen and I were in Greece. We were up there doing a play, and we were staying out there in the countryside with all these goat herders," Jim tells RNZ.

"We were going back along the cobbled streets in Delphi, and I saw this old chap riding a donkey. The street was pretty steep, so he had gotten off the donkey and was giving it a tap on the backside to try and get it going.

"Being a polite Māori here, Ngāti Toa, I went up and said 'Excuse me, sir, do you think I can take a picture?'

"He asked me 'You're a Kiwi?' and I said 'Yeah.' And he told me 'You can take many pictures.' He rolled up his shirt sleeve and tattooed on his forearm was an insignia of the Māori Battalion. He would have been 87 at the time.

"That's part of one of the many stories inside this one; a young Māori man who was left for dead, and who spent the rest of his life in another country."

Listen to the full interview on Radio New Zealand.

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