Topic: Te Reo Māori

Play challenges English as status quo

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

World-renowned classic absurdist play The Chairs by Romanian-French playwright Uegēne Ionesco has been adapted into Māori, Samoan, English and Cantonese.

Actor Amber Cureen from Te Pou Theatre says it's about challenging the idea of English as the mainstream language.

The producers of The Chairs are looking to fill the theatre with those who cherish Māori language.

“This is a challenge to theatres in Auckland, and wider NZ, to open their doors to Māori plays and make these places more Māori,” says Cureen.

Directed by Tainui Tukiwaho, the play has been translated into te reo Māori by Ani-Piki Tuari and adapted to a Māori context.

 “Whether the play is in Māori, Cantonese, English, Samoan or French, it's quirky and different,” says Cureen. 

Actor Audrey Chan says Cantonese, distinct from Mandarin, is the language of the first Chinese to come to Aotearoa.  She says the Cantonese speakers in NZ are experiencing their own challenges of language loss.

“I know that for some Chinese born here they would like to revisit their roots in their own original language,” says Chan.

Actors Amber Cureen and Antonio Te Maioha say performing a full-length play in te reo Māori has been both challenging and rewarding.

Antonio Te Maioha says, “I'm learning on the job, it's hard in this business of acting and theatre.  It's difficult to commit to and attend language development programs.”

“It's a challenge for me to speak Māori for an entire play but I get better and better each day,” says Cureen.

The Chairs in te reo Māori runs from the 18th to the 25th at Te Pou Theatre.