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  • TE RĀKAU

Powerful, profound, haunting, healing: a must see

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

Lynda Chanwai-Earle for Theatreview | 24 July 2022


Lynda Chanwai-Earle reviews The Swing for Theatreview.

 

A girl sits on the floor beneath a rope swing
Three years in the making, Pearse-Otene began writing The Swing as part of her PhD in Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington – Te Herenga Waka | Aneta Pond 2020

From the moment the audience enters the venue, we are embraced by a fierce, dramatically choreographed pōwhiri (welcoming) by the Kaitito Nekehanga (Choreographers) Kimberley Skipper and Jeremy Davis. It’s a signature of Te Rākau Theatre’s kaupapa and seasoned Director Jim Moriarty’s style. Helen Pearse-Otene’s play The Swing has already begun.


Te Rākau’s programme clearly states what to expect in terms of content trigger warnings for the audience, with offers of facilitated kōrero and support from experienced mental health practitioners at the end of the play: The Swing is about sexual abuse, family violence and suicide.


The audience is seated across from each other in Tony De Goldi’s deceptively simple, stunning traverse set design. Pivotal props – a child’s swing and leaves – are illuminated by lighting designer Lisa Maule’s subtle touch.


Like an intricate kōwhaiwhai pattern, the present-day intergenerational story of incest and family violence is woven with the ancient pūrākau (ancestor narrative) of Tānemahuta, who raped his daughter Hinetītama.

In her rage and grief, Hinetītama took her life and became Hinenui Te Pō (Goddess of Death) and brought about the mortality of humankind.


Based on true life stories, The Swing sweeps us into the familiar, acutely uncomfortable drama of incest and rape. These are stories that, if we are to be honest, affect too many of us, across communities, across cultures and across the globe.


Read more on the Theatreview website.


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