Taki Maori Haka Experience | Edinburgh Fringe 2014

If you’ve visited New Zealand you may have at some point hopped on a bus, headed to Rotorua and been given a traditional welcome at the marae by kapa haka performers. Alternatively if you are a fan of rugby you may be very familiar with the Ka mate Ka mate haka, made famous by the mighty All Blacks.

But what you may not know is that there are many versions of haka and indeed, it is practiced not as an isolated incident for tourists (or for export) but very much part of a living culture, where regularly people learn, practice and often compete in kapa haka competitions.

Produced by Mika and Jay Tewake, the Taki Maori Haka Experience is not a tourist export, although it is clearly developed for an international audience. It is playful, whimsical and very whanau (family) orientated, welcoming children and adults to engage and experience Maori culture in an informal setting.

Led by Kelly Henare and Damon Heke, we are introduced to their lives, their children and family, all of whom make up the Taki Maori troupe. Highly interactive with plenty of opportunities to engage audiences of all ages, this is an excellent way to introduce those not familiar with Maori culture to the language, especially through the waiata (songs) and their version of a haka specially developed for Edinburgh.

Both Henare and Heke have great energy and their wife-husband relationship adds much humour to the narrative which is mostly personal stories generously sprinkled with some opportunities to stand-up and participate. The show is playful and whimsical and although still needs to find its distinct voice, it is a collaborative effort with emerging talent amongst the younger of its performers who have Henare and Heke as their role models.

One of the great strengths of the work is that it does not allow any form of exoticisation of Maori culture: “We’re your typical family who just happen to have kids with a bunch of personality. Never a dull moment when we’re around. Invite us to lunch, it’ll be a meal and a show.” The familiarity of the performers with the audience and the casual conversation locates the interaction within a space where neither Maori culture or the haka itself are shelved to the status of the ‘other’ – this is not a culture that is distant and unfamiliar, it’s just the family sharing stories with a bunch of folks who happen to be their guests this afternoon.

The narrative itself could be developed further to bring the set of talents of the group to the fore and occasionally the lack of structure feels a tad haphazard, dipping into a few clichéd moments that detract from the overall family experience.

A good show that has the potential to go far in the future.


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