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  • Writer's pictureTE RĀKAU

Theatre explores Wellington's violent past

Updated: May 8

Caitlin Salter for Dominion Post | 19 January 2016

It's a tale as old as time - people fighting for their right to own land.


A bearded man in a shirt staands with his arms behind his back. In the background, a young woman reaches her hand out towards him
Actors Hariata Moriarty and Louis Tait rehearse Te Rakau Theatre's latest play Dog & Bone.

It's a tale as old as time - people fighting for their right to own land.

Wellington in 1869 was a bitter place where lives were cheap and hopeful settlers were disembarking from ships to find themselves in a war zone.

Māori theatre company Te Rākau Theatre is unlocking Wellington's violent past in its latest play Dog & Bone.

Director and company founder Jim Moriarty said the play could travel anywhere in the world and audiences would recognise the themes.

"We devised these stories based on the south coast of Wellington as a metaphor for events that happen everywhere," he said.

"The dynamics of people colonising each other are still as relevant now as it was in 1869."

Te Rākau works in schools, prisons, marae and youth justice residences throughout the country to fuse Māori values with theatre productions.

For the past three years, Te Rakau has taken up a summer theatre residency at Massey University to produce a play.

Dog & Bone is second part in a series of four plays about settlement of Wellington.

In 1869 the Titokowaru's War was in full swing.

The play features two fictionalised Maori brothers fighting against each other - one for the Armed Constabulary and the other for his tribe.

Writer Helen Pearse-Otene did extensive research to make sure the play was accurate.

She read newspapers and settlers' and Armed Constabulary diaries, and explored oral histories of local iwi.

Many theatre directors would shudder to think of a cast bigger than 15, but Dog & Bone features 26 actors, and 14 backstage helpers. Those involved range from 9-year-olds to professional actors.

Moriarty said the production worked because there were no prima donnas.

"We've got no stars in the show, we treat everybody with the same amount of respect - maybe that's the Maori thing.

"Off stage we all eat together, everyone cleans and has to chip in."

Producer Aneta Pond has her hands full running the show, but is up for the challenge.

"Logistically it's a lot of people, but you can get thousands on a marae and it works," she said.

Dog & Bone, Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, January 21 till 30, 7pm, and January 31, 1pm. Tickets $14-$28 from

This article was originally published in The Wellingtonian. See more online below.

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