Basement Theatre kicked off its HAU Festival this past week, A two-week event made up of new original indigenous, Pasifika and LGBTQi+ stories, with its first act HINE-TE-RĒHIA, a devised bilingual theatre experience with singing, dance, haka, and authentic storytelling through monologue and poetry, performed by an all-female BIPOC cast.
Basement Theatre makes for a more intimate environment than one would usually have with a show. The BIPOC cast shines, both individually and as a group. Collectively, they create a distinct dialogue through the mediums in which they tell their story.
HINE-TE-RĒHIA is exactly what it says it is, a unique theatre experience. The show, in partnership with the Tuatara collective, has developed the Rātā initiative, a pioneering practice that supports mental health during shows for artists and audiences. Professional mental health support is provided to all the artists involved and is also present at each event for the audience to engage with post-show.
The show itself is unique and hovers on the threshold between these many worlds. It is intensely personal, multicultural, multifaceted, and unapologetically feminine. The show touches on abortion rights, femininity, and having to exist in a world that has tried to control women for centuries. The cast each monologue on important but distinct issues that are specific yet culturally intersectional. This is interpellated with a great solo and group performances. The play’s deepest moments of connection and emotional intimacy are with those that discuss the historical injustices that women have had to injure. It is horrifying, traumatic, and deeply personal.
The show’s highlights were the cast’s rendition of Crowded House’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ and the haka to end the show. Other bright spots include the divergent and contemporary use of hip-hip and tradition Pasifika siva. These performances allowed the cast to display their talent and mana. The radical play evokes a heady mishmash of endearing cultural forms of femininity. The actors craft an array of colourful and profound characters which emphasise their subject matter with aplomb. Sexuality and culture in the show are reclaimed and utilised for self-empowerment.
The design of the play is carefully structured, with every object of the 2D plane adding character, atmosphere, and nuance to the show. A glowing-eyed statue created an eerie troposphere that was haunting and calming. The utilisation and use of lights to create a dramatic scene was also well done.
Overall, the show was vivid, chilling, explosive, and captured the contemporary BIPOC experience of rangatahi in a New Zealand and oceanic context. Hopefully, Week Two of the festival can capture this same experience.
Week Two of the HAU Festival brings us KA’A, singer songwriter Pati’s anticipated showcase of original music exploring Pasifika women, their bodies, and their identity. Pati has previously opened for The Beths in 2020 and performed at the Auckland Arts Festival in 2021, while also winning an award for Best Pacific Music video for ‘The Boy Who Cried Women’.
The third and final piece of HAU Festival gels together an splendid line-up of singers who will perform at a one-night-only Garage Party. A free event, Garage Party will be an old-school jam session with live performances and a sing-along. Featuring Liana Frangipani, Kārena Hunter and Brooke Ora (Ora.Vida.Life), Pati and the phenomenal Daughters of Ally, Jessie and Georgina Matthews.