Fresh Mourning: A Review of Poropiti

Theatre

24.06.2017

Fresh Mourning: A Review of Poropiti

Madeleine de Young reviews a new interdisciplinary work from Tola Newbery and Mara TK.

Poropiti is a meditation on the history of Aotearoa – a visual poem that contrasts the idea that history is a linear sequence of events with the messy reality of politically influenced remembering. In Aotearoa, the folds of history are numerous and complicated. Many stories have been forgotten and suppressed, often deliberately.

Actor Tola Newbery and musician Mara TK come together to reflect on these things that aren’t taught in schools: from the time of Tāne and the gods; to the time of birds and Māori alone; to contact; to conflict; to attempted peace and desolation at Parihaka. Then onto today, and to the people of loss: lost lands, rights, stories, identities. And to the people who call the streets their home.

These moments are depicted through movement and song. The pace is slow and deliberate and is joined by screen projections to shape our sense of when and where we are. Images merge of land, sea and sky. Clippings of history and the contemporary move across the screen: the fish and chip shop, empty ball courts, dark streets.

As Poropiti shifts from past to present, the performers swap korowai for shirts and then trackies and caps. The sand-covered floor is replaced with a blanket for the men to sit on.

While the duo navigate the past through to the present, there is a strong sense of revelation in their storytelling. Together they explore the connection between then and now and the murky impact of the forgotten times in between. It’s as if the memories that they’re sharing are newly rediscovered - bringing with them a fresh sense of mourning for what has been lost, and what is left now.

The historic tragedy of Parihaka lies at the centre of Poropiti. The poropiti were prophets of that Taranaki community who set out in the 1870’s to create a peaceful Māori society. It was the largest Māori settlement in the country and then on the 5th of November 1881 it was sacked. Children sang as soldiers entered the marae. When the soldiers left, all that was left was death and loss – the prophets were dead and the people imprisoned. Then they weren’t talked about. The modern remembering of Parihaka in mainstream New Zealand is still fresh, dredged up by the Waitangi Tribunal in 1996, and thrust into the public eye in 2011 – the 130th anniversary of the atrocity.

Newbery and TK do not go into great narrative detail about this event in history. Instead they give shape to the sensations of memory with slow, deliberate choreography and mournful song. This song and spoken word is contrasted with moments of unexpected deep silence.

Poropiti has the potential for a loaded soundscape. Off the bill you expect it – Mara TK is an incredible musician, known for both his solo work and with the band Electric Wire Hustle, yet more often than not, the audience is left in silence – a stillness only broken by the sound of punters in the bar outside. These silences linger, lending weight to the sense of rediscovery that hangs over the production. It asks the audience to be contemplative – to feel, as much as to think.

While drawing on history, Poropiti never explains the past. Rather, it asks you to acknowledge the wounds within our collective histories while still giving the viewer space to negotiate what that means on a personal level. In doing so, Poropiti creates a safe space for discovery – an alternative framework for the people of Aotearoa to confront our stories.


Poropiti runs from June 20 – 24 at The Basement Theatre. Tickets available here.

Playground Battle: A Review of Lord of the Flies
Read Time: 9 mins
Centrepoint Theatre's latest Open Stage production...
Theatre
Playground Battle: A Review of Lord of the Flies
By Adam Goodall
Chalk Stories: A Review of My Best Dead Friend
Read Time: 7 mins
Anya Tate-Manning draws on personal stories of loss...
Theatre
Chalk Stories: A Review of My Best Dead Friend
By Melissa Laing
 The ‘D’ Word: In Conversation with Alice Canton
Read Time: 17 mins
Diversity, like oppression but fancier.
Art
The ‘D’ Word: In Conversation with Alice Canton
By Lana Lopesi
Loose Canons: Ralph McCubbin Howell
Read Time: 10 mins
Theatre
Loose Canons: Ralph McCubbin Howell
By Ralph McCubbin Howell
Loose Canons: Anya Tate-Manning
Read Time: 8 mins
Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists...
Theatre
Loose Canons: Anya Tate-Manning
By Anya Tate-Manning
Speaking Under Urgency: A Review of E Kore A Muri E Hokia
Read Time: 6 mins
Te Rehia bring E Kore A Muri E Hokia – their Te Reo...
Theatre
Speaking Under Urgency: A Review of E Kore A Muri E Hokia
By Matu Ngaropo
Triple-Inception: A Review of Lick My Past
Read Time: 9 mins
Jess Bates revels in the joyous subversions of Nancy...
Theatre
Triple-Inception: A Review of Lick My Past
By Jess Bates
The Lyrical and the Literal: A Review of When Sun and Moon Collide
Read Time: 6 mins
Kate Prior rediscovers the poetry of 'When Sun and...
Theatre
The Lyrical and the Literal: A Review of When Sun and Moon Collide
By Kate Prior
Beta!