Review by Carly Fisher
Ari and Parekawa have been best friends since childhood and so, as they take us on their journey of activism and understanding, we, rightly start right at the beginning. For the next hour, the pair interweave storytelling and music to give life to a tapestry of memories and a call to action that needs to be heard.
As performers, the two are dynamic with an inevitable chemistry that one would expect from a friendship as strong as this. Their commitment to storytelling is electric and it is with great energy and gusto that they jump from scene to scene and into games that serve as memories of childhood. Their drive is clear from the start but is articulated towards the end of the show with a humble call to embrace this performance and its message through the reminder that we cannot all change the world, but for these performers, this stage is exactly where they can make a difference and impact the change that they want to see in their world.
The show is cleverly woven between two languages - English and a traditional Maori. As an international viewer, this feels a privilege to witness and despite the language barrier I enter the show with, the message is so clear that it quickly transcends my lack of understanding and I found a flow with the words that was exciting. This is exactly the sort of theatre that I came to New Zealand hoping to see - clever, passionate work that honours its past, invites me to learn more about the culture and still packs a punch with a strong message to deliver.
The show is broken into three parts so to speak. We open with a reminiscing of childhood that sees the two revert to a version of their childhood selves. Whilst effective for a time, and certainly not lacking in humour, I did feel that this part went for too long - there is only so long I want to watch adults speaking with childish lisps. This part could certainly be tightened without losing any of the impact of the show. Where I started to get really invested in the story is when Ari began breaking out of the games and baby talk to tell me more about her father and the sort of childhood she had. Interwoven then with the kid time, I started to really engage with the story.
Part two of the story focuses on the activism that the pair witnessed as kids with their parents being wonderful role models for them in standing up for what you believe in. It is fascinating to live these memories through child’s eyes and a powerful vehicle for them to tell their story. This part of the show was expertly crafted and beautifully set to some impactful, haunting even original music.
From part 2 to part 3 we experience a bit of a jump that I think could be better smoothed out with a bit more development of the piece. It’s quick to overlook this though as part 3, much like the part before it, is heavy hitting and so well paced in delivery that you cannot believe that you are heading towards the end of your hour with the pair. Part 3 focuses on the activists that Ari and Parekawa have become and the work that is current and important to them. They are impressive individuals and it is inspiring to hear of their work and commitment to ensuring that their country, and particularly its heritage, is well protected.
Ari and Parekawa both have beautiful voices and they harmonies fantastically well together. As playwrights, they have collaborated exceptionally well to get both of their stories on the page in a way that really represents pivotal moments in their life, as it relates to moments in New Zealand’s history. They have done well too to ensure that there is plenty of relatable content, irrespective of your life experience, and to play on a series of shared concerns.
Though on for a very short NZ Fringe season, I hope this will be the first iteration of the show for the pair and that they will look to restage this production across New Zealand. I would imagine that there will be a keen audience ready for this work wherever they take it.
It is impossible not to be impressed by the two friends you see on stage. The opening of the show may suggest that there is a fun, even silly hour ahead but if you assume that, you will be far from the scent. This is anything but. This is important theatre that tells the concerns, the cares and the heart of this generation better than I’ve seen any other piece of theatre for some time. If you are Gen Y/Z and identify with these performers, you will easily find virtue in this performance. If you are of an older generation, I hope that you see this show and leave full of hope for the generation that you see represented - with people like this leading the way, we just may be okay after all!