by Lynn on October 8, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer


Part of the RUTAS (Panamericanas) An International Performing Arts Fesitval

At Artscape Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St. E.

Information: 416-531-1402;

Te Rēhia Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand

Performed by Tainui Tukiwaho
Directed by Craig Geenty
Created by Regan Taylor

After Othello by Shakespeare.

Because this production had only three performances and closed tonight (Oct. 8, 2016), this is just a comment.

RUTAS is such a good festival, organized by Bea Pizano of Aluna Theatre partnered with Native Earth. As the brochure says, “Connecting the Americas through the arts.” Of course New Zealand is not considered the Americas, but because this was performed by a Māori performer some latitude is in order.

From the brochure: “A bold and humorous Māori twist on the classic tragedy in which Te Reo, original prose, and contemporary English come together. Using traditional Māori masks (Te Mata Kakako o Rēhia), this solo interpretation of Othello puts the spotlight on the characters Iago, Rodrigo, Othello and Desdemona, and places them into the context of a war between tribes in pre-colonial New Zealand.”

There is a wonderful sense of tradition with this production. First the audience is welcomed from the lobby into the playing space by a woman singing a traditional song of greeting. Then we are greeted by Tainui Tukiwaho, the solo actor of the piece. He wears cargo pants that come to mid-calf; flip flops, a sweatshirt that says “Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls” and a black baseball cap, worn backwards. He shakes each person’s hand; asks their name and tells them his. Then when we are all seated he acknowledges the space, the place and the audience in Māori. He then repeats it in English.

He then gives a convincing argument that Shakespeare stole all his ideas for his place from New Zealand, Othello being one. Then with three masks he assumes the roles of the various characters he will play and acts them using a very cut down version of Othello.

Tainui Tukiwaho flows from character to character switching masks and characters effortlessly. The story is clear and concise. Director Craig Geenty has staged the show beautifully. The suffocating of Desdemona is particularly affecting. Lovely piece of theatre and so moving.

It only played Oct. 6, 7, 8. Pity.

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