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  • Writer's pictureTE RĀKAU

Elqouent and insightful: A richly wrought weave

John Smythe for Theatreview | 22 January 2016

John Smythe reviews Dog & Bone for Theatreview.


Dogs challenge us, greet us and put us on our mettle as we enter Soundings Theatre at Te Papa. The ambivalence we experience is spot on: we are strangers encroaching on th

A man in a tophat and a boy in stage clothes stare intently into the audience
Helen Pearse-Otene’s Dog & Bone – directed by Jim Moriarty and presented by Te Rākau Theatre as part of their Ngāti Toa residency at Te Papa Tongarewa – had a development season at Whitireia Performance Centre in 2012.

eir territory but aren’t we entitled to be here? Have we not been invited and/or paid our way?

As we settle (in our seats), some of the dogs seek only love and friendship.

Some fight with each other, others get amorous with each other, some are avid for the next adventure, a few older ones rest ...

Thanks to the thorough observation and acting skills that inform this large Te Rākau Theatre cast’s depiction of dogs of differing species, we may feel reassured that dogs can be man’s best friend.

But there is a stealth in the way some silently come into the space.

They are upright, they have tomahawks and they howl. (Te Ara tells us the now-extinct kuri, brought by waka to Aoteroa, by Kupe and others, did not bark: they howled). The programme credits them as Ngāti Irawaru (a fictitious iwi, I think).

The show proper starts with a hearty welcome, from a character we’ll come to know as Rutledge (Noel Hayvice), to The Wellington Canine Fanciers Dog Show.

The qualities of strength, humility, dedication and obedience are extolled. We are told it is natural for a dog to obey its master, that there’s no such thing as an independent dog. The stated fate of those that don’t exhibit those virtues is salutary.

Māori say kuri whakapapa to man; Pākehā say they’re a common cur.

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