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  • Writer's pictureTE RĀKAU

'Bigger and better' – Dog & Bone

Updated: May 8

Ewen Coleman for The Dominion Post | 22 January 2016

Ewen Coleman reviews Dog & Bone for The Dominion Post.


Two actors grasp hands on a dimly lit stage. Lighting illuminates their bare arms and chest
Helen Pearse-Otene's play Dog and Bone paints a picture of a time back in our history when "savage" lives were cheap and hungry colonial greed ruled. | Aneta Pond 2016

Dog & Bone by Helen Pearse-Otene, directed by Jim Moriarty

Te Rakau Theatre Trust, Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, Wellington, 7pm nightly until January 31


Having first been on stage in 2012, Te Rakau Theatre Trust's epic tale Dog and Bone, currently playing at the Soundings Theatre, Te Papa is now even bigger and better this time around.

From the audience arriving to be greeted by the cast as yapping dogs around their ankles, to the final solitary moment, this play, lyrically and poetically written by Helen Pearse-Otene, is one of grand and operatic proportions.

Under Jim Moriarty's direction, the large cast of more than 25 performers of all ages fill the Soundings stage magnificently and bring Pearse-Oten's epic tale to life.

Set on the south coast of Wellington in 1869, it is a fictional tale based on historical facts, garnered from the diaries of settlers and Armed Constabulary, newspaper articles and oral histories of the local iwi.

And, as the programme notes explain, it paints a picture of a time back in our history when "savage" lives were cheap and hungry colonial greed ruled.

Living in the family home at Owhira Bay is Mr Beamish, his daughter Hannah May and her husband Taiki "Jack", along with her brother Robbie. Jack's brother Kuritea, who has been outlawed for fighting Pakeha soldier, is also there. 

Against his wife's wishes, Jack wants to work for the Pakeha as a scout and wants to go up country to where the Taranaki Wars are raging and where his brother-in-law Robbie is going to fight.

These troubles up north soon begin to impinge on the harmony of the family, as the men leave to become involved, with tragic consequences.

Outside this family group are numerous other characters, including a group of colonial women who arrive to take up residence with the Beamishs, while around the periphery is a chorus, Ngati Irawaru, who prowl about with great effect, observing and sometimes becoming involved in the action.

So while, on one level, it is about the lives and loves of the main players, it is also showing the bigger picture of this "savage" world that New Zealand was at this time.

And while the production may lack subtly at times, it more than compensates with its energy and vitality.

The sincerity and commitment of the performers also comes across as real and meaningful, making this a great production to start what promises to be an exciting year theatrically in Wellington.

This article was originally published in The Dominion Post. See more below on

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