After nearly two years touring the world with the Globe Theatre’s Hamlet, acclaimed actor Rawiri Paratene is back in Aotearoa with a new challenge. Paratene is playing the lead in the classic play Purapurawhetu – in full te reo Māori.
An extract from the interview:
‘Purapurawhetu’ is a very well-known pattern for tuku tuku panels. Briar Grace-Smith has woven an intriguing story into this play, which is now a classic. It’s close to 30 years old, mid-90s. It has been translated into te reo Māori and this is the first production of the translation. It’s a stunning role and a stunning play.
The play is set in a village that’s on its arse, really, as a lot of villages where and a lot of villages still are. The role that I play, he’s this old guy who hangs around the foreshore and looks at the rocks, and he’s a few kumara short of a hangi… He’s not taken seriously until this old woman arrives and she has a former relationship with Hohepa. And the story of their life together and their child together is told. So I’ve got to be a convincing young man, as well. The old guy I think I’ve got down now. I don’t have to croak up my voice anymore, I just talk normal.
On his grandchildren
My granddaughter is eight, my grandson is six and I have one coming up now who is two – they have never spoken English to me. Māori is the language in their home. They address me as if I should be speaking Māori to them. That’s a big challenge. The eight year old I can’t understand. Her level of language is so fantastic.
On performing internationally
[The Globe] performed in English in Russia. And I had no idea how we were doing because the audience just felt so cold and so unresponsive. I was backstage thinking ‘I think they really, really hate us. Let’s just push through to the end and see what happens’. The Globe tradition is to end with a jig, and then the jig started. We concluded and it was an incredible reaction. So we couldn’t read those audiences at all, whereas in the Caribbean… If I had favourite audiences, my favourite would have been those in the Carribean. The Pacific audiences, again, were spontaneous and delightful.
Purapurawhetū will be presented in full te reo Māori for two seasons at Te Pou Theatre from 6-9 July and at The Herald Theatre from 13 -16 July. In addition to the te reo Māori translation there will also be two English performances Wednesday 6th July at Te Pou Theatre and Wednesday 13th July at The Herald Theatre.