By Hone Kouka (Inspired by the novel ‘Tu’ by Patricia Grace)
The creation of TŪ a bright and shining reminder of passion, wit, vigour, deep love for each other and whānau.
I thank the cast and crew for their fearlessness, tautoko and aroha…Hone Kouka, Circa Theatre Season, June 2013
Beautiful elegant well-dressed 1940’s urbane Māoridom: Well, the cast are extremely beautiful and handsome – I literally could put them in sacks! I threw in the colours of rural Māori houses of the 1970’s that I grew up amongst to give the stage glow. Spearmint, Mustard, Lemon, Lolly Pink with Ratana Purple.Clare Bowden, Costume Designer; Circa Theatre Season, June 2013
With? Yes. Yes, of course you can help me. Of course.
He laughs stupidly.
What….what would you like?
He stands dumbfounded.
The vivid embodiment by the players – their playfulness that brought the dialogue and action of TŪ to life. It is this that fuels my memory of the script; and places certain intonations on words; richly, coloured images; some still, some flashing; some yet to be felt as an impulse in my body.
Whilst reading and remembering this snippet from Scene 11 between Philomel and Jess, I catch myself witnessing my own imagining, catch myself smiling – head tilted to the side. Wondering… witnessing those characters – their colours, their motion, within – their tasting, their pace. My own breath lengthens and shortens – as I witness their flirting together: I feel my/their goofiness… Witnessing – attraction, romance… Noticing or mimicking flirty eyes… Clocking the moment of checking-in – to make sure the receiver is catching my/their bounce…
And that’s when I catch myself with a stupid grin plastered on my face. I remember this also happened each time I saw this scene performed. Luckily – this reaction worked for my character Rimini – as she usually sat alongside her brother Benedict at the margins of the performance space, out of focus but not off-stage – witnessing the re-telling of these events from her Uncle Tū.
I was cast in two roles. To play characters Rimini and Moana for at least one workshop and two development-seasons – ultimately performing as Rimini across Tū’s three performance-seasons. I am thankful to have been invited into this opportunity to help grow this work, and to have come together so many times to have a crack at it together. I am grateful for our company together. I learn much more – of myself, of myself within this craft, of myself with others within this craft… I grow because of our time spent in vocation together. I practice listening for where to contribute to our shared focus and rhythm together.
TŪ, a bright and shining reminder of passion, wit, vigour, deep love for each other and whanau.
fearlessness, tautoko and aroha
The words pulled from this quote define the tikanga through which I experienced our work on together. Whakawhanaungatanga – inbuilt into the script of TŪ, inspiring whanaungatanga – a nourishing cycle, off-setting our search into our history with war and it’s associated trauma and the effects experienced inter-generationally. The pride I had experiencing this feeling of togetherness, is expressed (bolded) in Scene 38, through Uncle Tu:
We are one, my brothers and I. They treat me as a man, ha, a man.
I belong, we all belong to the other. This battalion of ours is mighty. They are life. (Beat) Death surrounds daily. Me, Tūboy. Here now. What was that?!! Nothing, be calm, be calm.They accept me, they. As a glove for brother Boydie, it does fit and Philomel greets me, speaks to me. I am a man.
Of course, some people always live within this circle of trust and confidence in their communities.
The props – there was a bell, a hand-held brass bell that was used throughout the show to signify the entrance into the cake-shop where Jess worked behind the counter. During rehearsals, the cast would add the rhythm of the sound of the bell prop until the real one came – it was often a race to chime out ‘ling ling’ as Philomel swung through into the shop for the start of Scene 11. Like the benches, the bell would get moved around a lot as scenes transitioned in and out of each other. At the start of this scene – Aroha White would set herself as Jess within the world of the bakery – two benches stacked atop of one another – adjusting her floured apron – her face would shine with flour as she turned towards the ‘ling ling’ of the door.
Philomel swings through the doorway, to be struck by Jess’s appearance before him.
One development-season performance, the bell was on the floor, not in its usual position next to its assigned bell-ringer. The actor closest to the bell seemingly oblivious to the bulging eyes of the other actors willing him to notice the bell in time to ring-in the impending cue. I’m sure he was perfectly well aware of where the bell was, and that the others were trying to signal him. But if he just waited, seeming to ignore all – there would be a crack-up of bulging eyes flicking across the stage at one another – bulging at him to notice and ring the bell, bulging at that other actor willing them not to call out ‘ling ling’ – that actor bulging back…
Games can be so simple with one another, communication can transmit on a number of frequencies concurrently; pleasure can be this simple. Teasing is fun and you can trust in the path of the teasing – trusting that it will always lead you down a good road, you can trust this – playing it along – whilst listening for the ultimate objective of our focused-time together, being ready to call in the next offer/direction.
Of course the bell was rung on cue, the tension that’d been built-up akin to what you might feel in an exam situation – where you feel excitement bubbling but you’re supposed to be quiet. Our awareness of each other bound tighter and our shifts together sharpened again.
‘Your face!’ – delivered by Philomel to Jess, the first intelligible words we hear from his character to hers, not long after the ‘ling ling’ into the bakery. It is quite a doongy moment – up until then we have witnessed Philomel to be quite formal – the language of the characters of the play already romantic, chivalrous, well spoken, poetic We witness an attraction at this moment, an immediate acknowledgement. This line has been delivered so memorably by all the actors I have had the pleasure of witnessing play Philomel. And from many others – when not even acting. For me – ‘Your face!’: an expression of admiration and appreciation; expressing the awe of and joy inspired by the other. This phrase, a part of my vocabulary, made conscious in a new way, ever-more to be associated with the playfulness of these players.
Me te mihi nui mō ā koutou manaakitanga.
Image Credits by Aneta Pond & Matt Grace
TŪ by Hone Kouka, World Premiere Season 01 March 2012, Pipitea Marae, New Zealand International Festival of the Arts, Wellington.
Ko Ngāti Wai te iwi. Erina Daniels is a collaborator within theatre – enjoying performing, directing, developing and supporting good projects with good people. Mauri ora!