A Māori actor who suffered from depression so severe that he wanted to end his life by having the police shoot him has won two major theatre awards for a play about his dramatic saga.
Seven years ago Rob Mokaraka orchestrated a stand-off outside his Auckland flat and was shot by a police bullet after he walked towards them holding a meat cleaver and a soup ladle wrapped in a tea towel. The incident inspired Mokaraka to write and perform in his one-man play Shot Bro, which won best new play and outstanding performance at the Wellington Theatre Awards last night.
“The kaupapa has been acknowledged and the message is clear that mental illness exists in all of our communities and we need to talk about it,” Mokaraka says about his win.
Throughout the year the play has been performed in prisons, in cities like Auckland and Wellington and smaller communities like Taneatua.
Mokaraka admits that portraying such harrowing personal events in the play has been emotionally taxing for him and his crew – director Erina Daniels and producer Moana Davey- but he says there are various coping techniques that help them after each performance.
“We talk openly about mental health, we have karakia and romiromi. We use the elements like the ocean to wash ourselves. I’ve also been seeing a shrink again. It’s all about mental, spiritual and physical protection.”
The production recently received more than $22,000 from Creative New Zealand to tour the North Island and has been invited to perform in festivals in Australia and Canada.
Although Mokaraka and his team are confronting depression and suicide head-on, they say there is a simple remedy to overcome these tough issues.
“We are doing this under the umbrella of aroha and aroha will dissolve the darkness,” says Mokaraka.
If you are suffering from depression and need someone to speak to, call the 27/7 depression hotline on 0800 111 757.