TAUNGAROA EMILE

Reflections With Him

The moment I want to share was not how extremely proud I was to be cast as Cook Islands Māori in the play Sunset Road, or that I would get to speak the reo on stage. Nor was it that a piece of my father had managed to find its way into the show, as part of my costume. He would’ve been so pissed (lol). But about a wonderful moment on stage that happened on Opening Night in Auckland.

I remember feeling a quarter of the way through, this probably wasn’t our best run. Be a few notes tonight. I wanted to stop and start again. House lights up. Everybody out! Resuming in five or ten minutes. Meitaki ma’ata. Redress. Reset. Repeat. Pretty sure I’m not the only one who has ever felt that way during a show.

It is important to stay true to the script. To honour the story, the words the writer has painstakingly placed there for you, to make, to manifest. I wanted Ina to be as close to Mīria’s paparuau as I could. That the character was not a replica of my own father. I wanted for my father’s nuances, expressions, movements, gestures to appear naturally through the season. Conscious craft with sub-conscious instinct. Made sense at the time. It’s like dreaming. You’re in it and not sure where it’s going. Your options are to either wake up or see where it takes you. During this particular Opening Night dream, I wanted to wake up. I decided that the show needed more pace. A speed run but with heaps more emotion. Get off the stage, get to the end of the dream. Receive my notes, find a drink. Mull over notes while maintaining conversations with friends and whānau, while listening to Island music. Come back in a few days and receive an extra set of notes. Redress. Reset. Repeat. Dream.

The 2014 role of Ina differed to that of the 2012 production – obviously I was in it but now there was a pa’u (traditional Cook Islands bass drum) on stage, that I would play during the show but it would be outside of the character of Ina. It was during a scene where Luka and LuciaIna‘s children, while riding ‘Little Wing’, Luka’s beloved Triumph Bonneville motorcycle and were being chased through the streets of Rotorua by the local police. They had found their light (front and centre -stage). The gobo police lights were flashing in and all around Q Theatre’s Loft, along with wailing sirens over rapid Cook Islands bass drumming. It was pretty epic. And with all the new pace and energy I was trying to inject – I wasn’t sure if I would be able to maintain the tempo to be honest.

That’s when I saw it. An unforeseeable coincidence. A rogue stage light, moved by someones foot in the front row which now faced up stage to where I had been playing in the dark. My eyes were stung by it. I tried hiding behind the pa’u. WTF! Looks like I’ll be giving some notes at the end of this as well.

What happened next was unexpectedly wonderful. Up in the top right corner of the theatre, where the ceiling meets the wall, I saw that my shadow was playing the pa’u as well. He looked oblivious to any of the cares or worries I was having. My shadow looked like he was having the best time up there. High above everyone, I then saw that there was not one but two silhouettes playing the pa’u. Playing together. That’s when I recognised him. My dad. I could see that I was being an exact replica of him. That he was with me, when I needed him. It was if my absolute best dream had come true. I started to cry, while trying to maintain the beat, thinking of how much I missed him. There you are. I began to bawl thinking she might be around too – my mum. I wanted more time with him. I just wanted to stay there. I didn’t want this lighting state, this drum beat, this dream to end, ever. But it did. As all dreams must. I missed my cue out of that scene because of him. It was one of my notes after the show. Of course, he got me good alright. Conscious craft or sub-conscious instinct? Aua. What I do know is that after my Opening Night dream, all I wanted was to listen to some Island music, stand in the space where I had dreamt it and reflect with him.

Kia orana.

Image Credits by Shovik Nandi


World Premiere Season 20 June 2012, Circa Theatre, Wellington.

Auckland Premiere Season 20 August 2014, Q Theatre, Auckland.

Taungaroa Emile (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngati Kuki ‘Āirani) is an actor for theatre, television and film. A story teller, a dreamer, a nerd, Taungaroa has worked in story telling since he and his older brother crashed their family holden station wagon into the garage door at ages 3 and 4 respectively.