Review: Takatāpui at Sydney Opera House

Review by James Mukheibir


Day to day, night to night in a queer Māori body.


The emotional experience of Takatāpui is how I imagine waves of sound feel in the expert hands of Daley Rangi. Guided through highs and lows, often at the same time, creating a dissonant harmony of the heart as Daley elicits giggles in moments of devastation; moments of sharp clarity in floating dreams.


Heartbreakingly personal, Takatāpui is an exploration of self-perception/reflection/expression, told through experimental poetry. Rangi wields words like paint brushes soaked in the echoes of experience, with each line crafted with a wonderful balance of artistry and colloquial. There is no need for inaccessible and thesaural linguistic gymnastics, they are entirely comfortable twisting casual language into something rich and darkly beautiful. From the first moments of the show, Rangi brings the audience down to earth. This is life. It is not some magical mystery full of whimsy, it is what has been lived. In an ugly and destructive world where we all do our best to put on a pretty face. They invite us into their heart and mind, allowing us to play witness to the internal battles that haunt the quiet moments.


These quiet moments are regularly interrupted by pumping dance numbers and light shows, unwillingly performed by Daley, although I must admit it was wonderful to see even a glimpse into their energetic stage presence beyond the confines of the seat and table that made up the entirety of the set. However, despite the minimal set, the space never felt empty. Filled with Daley’s energy, presence, and flowing poetry, the space was not only a bubble, it was a vacuum. Such was their gravity, in moments, it felt like nothing else existed. Their use of a vocal processor allows for a depth and emotional range that transformed and transported. Rage bubbles to the surface, lashing out at the insecurities and destructive tendencies, at the trauma played out throughout the piece, and at the colonisation of the land, of love, and of the mind.


In many ways, the small bonsai on Daley’s table serves as a microcosm of this piece. It’s a bit small, a bit stunted, it's no oak that’s for sure. But it was never going to be. It was set up for failure in that regard. Bred as part of the bizarre human fixation with shaping nature. Colonising nature.


It is beautiful nonetheless. And full of rage, ready to burn it all down if it means it can one day stand side by side with the oak. Takatāpui is a personal story but it strives to go beyond individual experiences and change the world because the world is f*cked and it needs changing.


Takatāpui will likely have finished its run at the Opera House by the time you are reading this. But if you ever have the opportunity to witness Daley Rangi’s work, you simply must take it.

Images Supplied