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  • Writer's pictureTE RĀKAU

Actress ready for war in The Undertow

Updated: May 9

Abby Brown for Upper Hutt Leader | 18 January 2017

An Upper Hutt actress is making history as part of a Māori theatre company.


A girl in a wartime nurse costume comforts a man dressed as a soldier
Noel Hayvice, Charlotte Lennon and Cayden Howes perform. | Aneta Pond 2017

As part of Maori theatre company Te Rakau, Charlotte Lennon will be part of the presentation of the first quartet of homegrown plays ever to be performed in repertory in New Zealand.

The 19-year-old takes centre stage in The Undertow which opened at Te Papa Tongarewa's Soundings Theatre on January 17.

Lennon joins a diverse cast of critically acclaimed veteran practitioners, recent graduates and current students of Toi Whakaari and Whitireia performing arts schools, as well as local high school students and novice actors.

"I love performing with this whanau, they create a magical atmosphere both on and off stage," she said.

She said although she was Pakeha, the Maori theatre group was really welcoming.

The former St Oran's College student became involved with the group in 2013, when they held auditions at the school for The Ragged.

She had been acting since primary school and was also a dancer.

Performing in The Undertow series has taught Lennon about her own family history, as well as some of the harsher truths about how Maori were treated.

"School filtered the history so to see the truth and know that is my history too- I'm not very proud of it."

She hoped audiences would learn something new about their pasts, come away with an emotional reaction and perhaps be inspired to change the future.

"We can't change the past but we can try to change the future, we have to come to grips with our past and move forward."

She said New Zealand needed to be more inclusive. "We are one, whether we like it or not. It's imperative that all Wellingtonians see The Undertow."

Lennon said the third play, Public Works in which she plays a nurse, discusses the experiences, hopes and fears of New Zealand WWI soldiers in Passchendaele near Belgium and had a special place in her heart as her grandfather and great-uncles fought in this war.

She also plays a playful spirit in The Ragged, a white dog in Dog and Bone and a moth in The Landeaters.

Developed over a period of six years by acclaimed playwright Helen Pearse-Otene, and directed by Jim Moriarty, The Undertow tackles the cultural history of Aotearoa New Zealand through the eyes of seven generations of Wellingtonians.

Pivotal moments in our country's history are brought to life in four parts: from the arrival of the first settler ships, to the gentrified Port Nicholson and troubled Britannia, to our war history and current day urban development.

Audiences can enjoy all four plays in one epic day of theatre, or book just for an evening. Tickets for the show that runs to January 29 are from Ticketek.

This article was originally published in the Upper Hutt Leader. See more on

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