A seemingly simple domestic ritual is honoured as the holder of whakapapa, connection and culture in Rēwena, written by award-winning author Whiti Hereaka and onstage at The Court Theatre from 25 March.

Rēwena brings us into the heart of Maggie’s home, where we are taken on a journey through the beliefs, traditions and personal memories baked into the making, sharing and eating of bread.

Presented as a ‘class’ in breadmaking, Maggie (played by Kim Garrett, fresh off The Court’s recent run of Sense and Sensibility) shares memories and experiences – and the feelings they stir – that are as palpable as the rēwena she is making in front of us.

Tania Gilchrist, who has worked both as a performer, writer and director at The Court, as well as at other theatres, directs. In approaching Rēwena as director, Gilchrist also embraced rēwena making for the first time, creating (and naming) her own bug and learning the rhythms of the bread-making process.

She describes Rēwena as “a one-woman kōrero about love and sharing.” Rēwena speaks poignantly to the commonality of bread (and its creation) as the great connector across cultures, generations and civilisations. Traditionally the most essential food of even the poorest, here Hereaka teaches us its real value: “Remember that it’s not just rēwena that we share; it’s life… So it is important who you make it for and who you choose to share it with.”

Infused with humour and wry observations about modern life, Rēwena is told in real time and was written to last as long as it takes to bake a loaf of rēwena (approximately 50 minutes). Bread is baked onstage in each performance and then shared with the audience afterwards. The Court’s mainstage will be modified to create an intimate kitchen space only available to 70 people per performance.

An attraction for Gilchrist was that Rēwena shares Māori stories that aren’t about trauma. “Maggie has her pain and struggles, but this story is warm, inviting and caring. We get to bring those Māori values to The Court in an intimate and immediate setting” she says.

Creating the play is a collaborative effort with Garrett which Gilchrist describes as “sharing ideas and weaving it all together. It’s like making rēwena – we’re creating the bug, feeding it, growing it and shaping it. I’m enjoying getting to know Maggie and looking forward to getting to know – and share - Kim’s Maggie.”

Rēwena is one of six plays from Aotearoa in The Court’s 2023 line-up, reflecting the theatre’s commitment to provide opportunities that support local creatives.

Rēwena runs 25 March – 22 April, followed each evening by Be Like Billy? These plays can be seen separately (discounts apply), or people can attend as a double bill. Tickets available from courttheatre.org.nz

“Rēwena is an unexpected and delightful treat, poignantly reminding us that those simple shared pleasures (the breads of life) are the things that keep us connected with our whānau and friends.”
Theatreview, 30 October 2013