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March 15, 2004 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

The Untold Tales of Maui

New Zealand International Arts Festival
Humourbeasts (Jemaine Clement and Taika Cohen)
Taki Rua Productions, 2-4 March

“Let many tell you about the untold tales of Maui…”
“How many are there?”
“I told you, boy, untold!”

A fast-paced two hours saw the unbelievable myths of Maori demi-god Maui told in an original and irreverent way. From slowing down the sun with a flax net to fishing up the North Island; it’s all told through the eyes of an aged grandmother who spends her days sanding down a piece of tree to a fine stick. She’s trying to get her wayward grandson to stop the Michael Jackson impersonations and get in touch with his Maori heritage; with a bit of help from “paua-point” and various papier mâché puppets to portray Maui as an angry baby and Maui’s four mortal brothers (four papier mâché heads).

The humour is Maori-driven, but appeals to all New Zealanders…perhaps because it’s so politically incorrect. The boys riff on the image of the typical “jive-talking” Maori teen to tremendous effect.

It’s rough and edgy with plenty of random
madness (a ratio graph of frustration to work mocked the typical suit clad audience seen at much of the festival) yet the bizarre has been carefully harnessed and honed to make for a slick professional show. Apparently this show is a departure from the stronger stuff Taki Rua usually goes in for but stick with it I say.

As a final note, the illustrious theatre editor of the fine student magazine you’re holding (sucking up will get you everywhere) gave me permission to shamelessly discuss the hotness of the actors in this production (that’s because she’s a shameless hussy – ed.). So, I will. They’re hot. Very hot. And very, very funny.

However, unlike other good looking “actors” (Keanu Reeves), these boys can actually act. Clement’s portrayal of the stunted grandmother Tutaenui is surprisingly realistic. It’s well timed, sarcastic and hilarious. The risk with productions like this, with only two actors carrying the show and playing many parts is that the characters will be under-developed and flat. I was pleased to see this didn’t happen; each character in Maui has obviously been given time to develop and the show ends up with rounded, whole characters.

Now, don’t despair, the boys will be back with this show at Circa from 15 July – 31 July. Mark it in your diaries. NOW. Come on, they run around bare-chested in skirts!


About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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