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  • Writer's pictureTE RĀKAU

Drama helping to give at-risk teens direction

Emma Geraghty, The Wellingtonian | 17 June 2009

Ten teenagers in an Island Bay theatre group hope to take their new production, Battalion, to an indigenous drama festival in Vanuatu early next month.


A group of young performers perform a haka
COMING TOGETHER: Te Rakau members take a break during rehearsals for their upcoming show Battalion. | Photo by Emma Geraghty 2009

Te Rakau Hua O Te Wao Tapu Trust theatre group works with youth at risk, helping improve their lives through drama.

The trust tours New Zealand once a year, but the trip to Vanuatu would be the first time the group had worked overseas.

Written by Helen Pearse-Otene, Battalion compares the experiences of a World War II veteran and current issues in the lives of two troubled teens.

Actor Jim Moriarty has led Te Rakau for the last 18 years. All the boys, aged between 14 and 17, act in Battalion, as well as making the props and working as stage hands. Workshop facilitator Toa Waaka said performance provided a constructive outlet for the boys to express themselves.

"The boys often have a lot of pent-up energy," he said.

How long it took each member to complete the programme depended on the individual, he said.

"Some have been here nine months to two years."

One teenager, Pare, said he had a new outlook on life since starting the programme six months ago.

"Physical exercise, doing stuff without being drunk or wasted, it just helps you think properly I never used to think about my future or jobs and stuff. It gives you a second chance."

Another of the group, Cameron, said acting for Te Rakau had been a valuable experience. "It changes you."

In the group's last show, he played a Vietnamese pimp and he recalled a performance at Waikeria prison.

"The prison people enjoyed it, with wolf whistling going on!"

More than 1.5 million New Zealanders have watched Te Rakau shows in theatres, schools, marae and prisons.

Te Rakau hopes to take Battalion around New Zealand later this year.

This article was originally published in The Wellingtonian. Visit the Stuff website to read more articles.

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