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September 21, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Whero’s New Net


Whero’s New Net is a compelling new work about connecting with family, friends, ancestors, and through all this, ourselves. Director Sam Scott’s programme note stresses that Whero’s New Net has been made for the audience. Too often in the theatre I feel that I’m just watching other people have fun, but what kept me captivated by Whero’s New Net for the whole performance was that I felt it was a story made for me and being told to me.

It is not often that I feel such a strong connection to a story. Whero’s New Net is just so so relevant, a strong exploration of what it means to be a young New Zealander, today. Whero’s story—a girl in London trying to make it as a singer—is contrasted with her parents’ story of when they were her age, in New Zealand, pretending to be married so they could get a new house with their baby Whero. In London, Whero scores a meeting that could be the beginning of her career taking off, but she misses it. Becoming obsessed with her father’s diary that a mystery relation brings to her, Whero is overcome with homesickness; a sentiment we come to understand through the happiness of her parents’ much more modest life, versus the emptiness of Whero’s life in London, the reality of which is slowly revealed. Through the diary, Whero tries to connect with her ancestry and her past, while her main support in London, Dermot, also has to return home to Ireland when his family church burns down, losing their family Bible. The story connects tales of Maori ancestry, Irish Ancestry (which of course was very relevant to much of the audience), questions relationships between family life, friendship, love and work as each character struggles to reconcile the elements that are important to their own lives.

It was not only the strength of the story (by Albert Belz, inspired by stories by Witi Ihimaera, it couldn’t not work!) but also the beautifully subtle and truthful performances by the actors, particularly Bree Peters as Whero, Kura Forrester as Anahera and Wesley Dowdell as Dermot, who also takes charge of the comic relief!

The only downside of this production is that the design is somewhat lacking. The stage is pretty much divided in two halves, which allows some slick switching between scenes. On each side is a large stone block that is a bed, seat, etc etc. It is little more than rostra, practical for touring I guess, but it leaves the vast theatre looking so empty. It does leave space for us to feel the strength of the performances though.

It’s wonderful that this production is touring and will be taken to audiences throughout New Zealand. If you get the chance, I urge you to go see it.

Whero’s New Net
By Albert Belz
Directed by Sam Scott
Featuring an adaptation of short stories by Witi Ihimaera
Downstage Theatre, Wellington
26–29 Aug 2009


About the Author ()

Fiona was named "Recessionista" in the ASPA Fashion Awards 2009 for her Takaka op-shop frock and spray painted shoes. She co-edits the arts section and also likes to write about women and other stuff.

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