By Joe Davis


Saturday July 20th, Q Theatre, Auckland

TU opened Saturday night at Q Theatre. Inspired by Patricia Grace's acclaimed novel of the same name,Hone Kouka's play is without doubt a remarkable contribution to New Zealand theatre. It at once honours Grace's novel, and carves out a unique identity all its own.

TU offers profound insight into the bonds and complexities of family and brotherhood, the weight of our past, the lasting impact of our choices in life, and the deep harm of war across generations. It is richly layered, intelligent and powerfully dynamic.

The play weaves together narratives spanning three generations of a Maori family, each faced with conflict overseas - World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War. The impact of war on their lives, and the lives of their family and loved ones, is revealed through the course of the work.

Kouka's characters are finely crafted, and demand much of the actors. Complex, intimate and often explosive interactions reveal the characters to the audience, with all of their very real scars, insecurities and courage on display.

The traverse staging provides a wonderful platform for us to share the family's journey. Mark McEntyre's set and Ulli Briese's high-saturation lighting design combine to provide a remarkably dynamic setting for the various interwoven narratives to unfold, incorporating visual metaphors that cleverly reflect and support the performances. Slashes carved through the planking floor of the traverse, lit from below, create visual barriers that transform the space with remarkable effectiveness.

Each of the cast brings considerable talent to the stage. Of special mention were the performances of Jarod Rawiri as Philomel - the pained and complex older brother - and Tina Cook as the family's matriarchal leader. The profound pain - both past and present - that Cook expresses through her role is an absolute stand out.

TU deserves every success. Kouka and his Company have brought something truly special and uniquely of New Zealand to the stage, and I encourage you to get along and see it. Kouka's vision and creativity are inspirational - we need far more theatre of this quality and boldness. You will not be disappointed.