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January 10, 2010 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

Te Haerenga – a journey of identity


There is a lot of wonder to be held in the simple act of storytelling. There are few other places or forms where such a direct connection can be made between audience and performer. The Baggage Co-op (Ralph Johnson, Moira Wairama and Tony Hopkins) are three of the best story tellers going and their revival of their Aotearoa trotting trilogy of personal odysseys Te Haerenga mines this intimacy for all its worth. The three performers inter-cut (and very occasionally intertwine) their own life stories over the course of an hour or so.

Ralph Johnson focuses on the much mined territory of all the issues around being male. Johnson does very well in spinning an interesting, amusing and original story out of material that is, to be honest, Te Haerengahardly fresh. While there are a few moments when he does drift into some painfully hackneyed ‘men are like this, woman are like that’ material, they luckily leave as quickly as they arrive. There is a lot to like about Johnson’s performance, but be does somewhat jar against the other two stories in his insistence on performing it a lot more. His young self, who he clearly takes much relish in presenting on stage, charms just as much as he annoys. You tend to get the feeling that Johnson just needs to trust that the power of his story is in the telling of it, not in the bounding of it across the stage.

Moira Wairama, on the night I attended, was clearly having a bit of a hard time. She stumbled over her words quite a bit and seemed generally rather distant. This resulted in her tale of her quest to learn and spread Te Reo throughout New Zealand ringing a lot emptier and drier than the other two. This was unfortunate as it was probably just bad night and I have no doubt that she will excel on other nights. Within her story is also an odd blindness to the potential political implications of her actions. No matter how well meaning her quest, people are still allowed to have issues with a white woman fetishising Maori to this degree. She just does not seem to understand that and one cannot help but feel that even an implicit reference of acceptance of this within her story would improve it.

Tony Hopkins’ personal voyage through the American Civil Rights movement is the clear highlight of the show and worth the price of entry alone. He is effortlessly engaging, taking the audience with him on a perilous journey through his life right up to this moment. He balances the endemic comedy and horror of the real world with such ease that you cannot help but be sucked into his story. It could very well sustain a show of its own if properly expanded.

Te Haerenga – a journey of identity is also one of inconsistency. The three stories seem pitched at slightly different audiences with slightly different tones. But, this is in no way a deal breaker, it is still a show of life and meaning and one that is more than worth your time.

Although, I could have done without the singing.

Te Haerenga – a journey of identity
By the Baggage Co-op
Written and performed by Ralph Johnson, Moira Wairama and Tony Hopkins
Directed by Ralph Johnson

At BATS theatre
7 – 16 Jan 2010, 6.30pm

Booking details here.


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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