For three nights in August The Court Theatre will be welcoming a trio of Māori and Pasifika theatre practitioners who will each present a new and different work-in-progress theatre piece in The Forge at The Court production Ē Toru.

Writers Tania Gilchrist, Tavita Nielsen-Mamea and collective Y NOT will present their individual pieces – each still growing and developing as rehearsals begin – to a Christchurch audience for one night only in The Court Theatre’s Pub Charity Studio from 9 – 11 August.

The process is aided by support from The Court Theatre as Gilchrist, Nielsen-Mamea and Y NOT prepare to debut these performances next month.  

For Associate Director at The Court, Dan Bain, Ē Toru is a chance for audiences to see, “three new and emerging works from some of Ōtautahi’s most exciting Māori and Pasifika playwrights.”

Opening the series is writer Tania Gilchrist with her play Rīpeka on the 9th August. Rīpeka follows Paia in Christchurch as she learns more about the life of her ancestor, Rīpeka, and her life in The East Cape back in 1860.

Rīpeka is about whakapapa and identity,” Gilchrist says. “It’s exciting to be part of this new initiative and to share Te Reo Māori and Te Ao Māori with Court Theatre audiences.”

Following Gilchrist on Friday 10th August is Tavita Nielsen-Mamea with political story of environmental relevance in Au Ko Tuvalu.

Au Ko Tuvalu means ‘I Am Tuvalu’ and is a reference to the people of Tuvalu who are losing their islands to climate change. Au Ko Tuvalu is about three sibilings who are being displaced from their homeland. It’s about the struggles and hopes of these siblings as they try to say goodbye to the land where they come from, where their family comes from and all their ancestors before them,” Nielsen-Mamea says.  

Nielsen-Mamea’s story comes at a time when Tuvalu sits only 4.6 metres above sea level, with concerns that the country may not be habitable in the near future.

“Climate change and its effects in the Pacific is an issue that needs to be talked about. There is a saying in the Tuvaluan community, ‘You save Tuvalu, you save the world’. Ē Toru is a great platform for Māori and Pasifika artists to voice our ideas and tell our stories to the rest of Christchurch, Aotearoa and the world.”

The final performance of Ē Toru on Saturday 11th August comes from theatre collective Y NOT. Their production Palu will be taking a traditional cabaret setting and giving it a Pacific twist in this tri-lingual show that highlights the differences (and similarities) between Samoa and Tonga.

Palu is about the essence of Kava,” says Y NOT co-founder Albany Peseta. “Palu will show the difference of how Tonga and Samoa use kava, but also the similarities in both cultures. You will see the tradition of kava in the cultures, but also what it’s like now in today’s generation, alongside a lot of singing, laughter and a great time.”

Peseta, who recently appeared at The Court Theatre in Roger Hall’s Easy Money as The Bishop, is excited for Ē Toru and the opportunities it is bringing for both practitioners and audiences.

“Ē Toru will show something different and offer something new to Christchurch and The Court Theatre.”

Vanessa Gray, the Kaihāpai Toi (Māori and Pasifika Producer) at The Court Theatre, is working on the project alongside Associate Director Dan Bain and believes that Ē Toru is immensely important for the theatre.

“It’s important that The Court Theatre puts on work like Ē Toru because Aotearoa New Zealand and its Māori and Pasifika peoples have a unique perspective found nowhere else in the world.  Our Māori and Pasifika voices are just as deserving to be heard and seen as any other. Possibly even more so, as they are still highly underrepresented in te ao toi whakaari (the world of theatre). Aotearoa is the only place where these unique voices and perspectives exist so it’s important we respect that fact and offer support in whatever way we can. The Court’s goal in Ōtautahi is to provide and strike a better balance with Māori and Pasifika artists to reflect and support our diverse communities, people and practitioners showcasing their extraordinary talent.”

As these three very different plays begin to take shape, audiences now have to choose which evenings – if not all three – they will come along to.  

Ē Toru runs at The Court Theatre from the 9th – 11th August with all tickets $10. Rīpeka will be performed on the 9th August; Au Ko Tuvalu on the 10th August and Palu on the 11th August. To find out more about Ē Toru and to book tickets, click here.