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  • Writer's pictureTE RĀKAU

Wellington tauira tackle south-coast stories

3 June 2024

Two gripping stories from Te Rākau's Undertow series are coming to Toi Whakaari, diving deep into early interactions between Māori and Pākehā on Wellington’s South Coast.

Four students wearing white shirts, long skirts and piupiu perform a waiata
The plays feature the work of second and third year students of Toi Whakaari | Photo by Taylor-Rose Terekia 2024

Tauira of the prestigious drama school will present two plays: The Ragged and Dog & Bone, which are part of Undertow, a series written by Te Rākau kaituhi/author Helen Pearse-Otene.

The plays are directed by Regan Taylor and Jamie McCaskill respectively, two celebrated members of the creative community in Te Whanganui a Tara.

History comes to life

Regan, director of The Ragged, says the play is particularly relevant to Wellington locals.

“The script is rich with historical facts and trinkets. I'd like the audience to reflect on the information and attitudes that shaped the Owhiro Coast and Wellington Town.”

Fictional characters in a historical setting come to life in The Ragged, where new settlers from oppressive Victorian England have just arrived “safe and well at the ends of the earth,” ready to claim their land and a better life.

However one settler, Samuel Kenning, is quickly learning that the life and land he purchased from the New Zealand Company wasn’t theirs to give.

You can watch all the stories in the Undertow series online for free now, and buy your own copy of the plays. Find out more about the Undertow series on our website.

Nurturing new talent

Regan says he’s enjoying working with second-year students of Toi Whakaari to extend their skills through The Ragged.

“The greatest reward for me on this project is experiencing the ‘A-ha!’ moments with the  students: seeing their shifts in thought toward the text or character discoveries,” he says.

“My pou is to encourage their learning, help them exercise the skills they've acquired in their past year and a half of training, and to promote self-awareness of how they're shaping their approach to becoming potent actors for years to come.

“I'm excited by the new talent coming out of this year: design students, stage management, and production students – they are all a hard-working crew.

“I wouldn't hesitate to work with them again. Their skill is a testament to the dedicated staff of Toi Whakaari,” he says.

Passing on a love for theatre

Regan says his previous work as a performer with Te Rākau gave him a unique perspective on his work directing tauira in The Ragged.

“This work requires a determination and willingness to give 110% and nothing less,” says Regan.

“I can fully appreciate how and why Jim and Helen do what they do, with the backing of the whole Te Rākau whānau.”

Last year Regan worked with the company on Unreel, a collaborative project with Ngāti Toa that aims to address the harm caused by gambling. Read more about the community wellbeing project here.

“It wasn't an easy lesson to learn because the ego gets bruised. However, working with Jim strengthened my resolve to heighten and improve my approach as an actor,” he says.

Regan balances this stoic approach to his craft with a natural inclination to see the lighter side of things.

“I utter the words ‘It’s just theatre…’ a lot – and I’ll probably get flack from my contemporaries for thinking this way – however it doesn’t diminish my love for the magic of theatre,” he says.

“I put a wero to the students across the whole production to take the work seriously, but not take themselves seriously.”


The Ragged and Dog & Bone will be presented at Toi Whakaari from Friday 14 June to Wednesday 19 June 2024. Tickets on sale below.

Directed by Regan Taylor and Jamie McCaskill respectively, the shows feature the work of Second Year Acting, Second and Third Year Design and Management, Second Year Costume and Set & Props students from Toi Whakaari.

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