Tiki Tanne Mahuta

Tiki Taane Mahuta

It’s been almost a decade in the making but watching the talents of composer and musician Tiki Taane and choreographer Tanemahuta Gray meld together is a sublime experience that’s worth the wait.

The two hour long production weaves together aerial theatre, kapa haka, hip-hop, shadow theatre, ballet, martial arts, mau rakau, video projection and live music to share a multi-generational story of enduring love, devastating loss and ultimately, re-birth and new beginnings.

The work begins with awe-inspiring footage as Tupuna Rangatira and his warriors set off in their waka. It’s 1300 AD and time stretches before us, braiding the past and present through light, sound and movement. Uekaha Taane Tinorau is a compelling presence; as the kaitiaki (guardian) of this narrative, his recurring image locates the urban stories of his descendants firmly in Te Ao Maori – a world into which we are invited.

It’s the story of two couples, Karen and Eraia and Marie and Paul, whose lives are tragically affected by a disastrous car crash. The drama shifts between the two couples and the slow but certain unfurling of love between their children.

Gray’s unwavering taut choreography is reflected in his dancers, both in their movements but also their stillness. Sharn Hoani Wi Te Pou (Eraria, Roimata) and Te Arahi Easton (Adam) are stand out performers as are Paige Shand (Marie) and Brydie Colquhoun (Karen) whose execution and technique are laudable throughout the production.

Both the aerial theatre and kapa haka movements are particularly stunning, the latter especially so in the closing section of the first half where performers in sweeping black skirts command the stage with a captivating finale. Throughout the production, Tiki’s live performance and familiar dub beats add a layer of magic. Cradling the storytelling on stage, his voice and music create a world where dance, song and story all merge.

Dramaturgically, there are still some minor issues that could support the overall production, especially in offering better narrative clarity and improving scene transitions.

However, these are minor quibbles.
A scene from Tiki Tanne Mahuta.
A scene from Tiki Tanne Mahuta.

One thing remains clear: the standing ovation given at the Auckland performance applauded not just exceptionally high production values but, as our tamariki enthused all the way home, it was about seeing contemporary Maori stories told in ways that were powerful, inclusive and meaningful to them – and that’s what made it a “very cool” Monday night.