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The Haka Party Incident comes to Rotorua

A groundbreaking, thrilling mix of documentary and kapa haka making it a highly significant play in the history of New Zealand theatre.

Following its renowned sold-out premiere season in 2021, The Haka Party Incident has confirmed a six-centre national tour in 2023, including Rotorua on Wednesday 21 June at the Sir Howard Morrison Centre.

Provocative, resonant and joyfully unforgettable, The Haka Party Incident innovatively combines documentary and Kapa Haka to thrilling effect.  Awarded Best play by a Māori playright and the Dean Parker Non-Fiction Award, the production is a not-to-be-missed theatre event.

‘A gift every New Zealander deserves to enjoy.” - Theatreview

Before writer and director Katie Wolfe (Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Toa Rangatira) brought The Haka Party Incident verbatim theatre production to the stage, many New Zealanders were unaware of the titular three-minute conflict. In 1979 University of Auckland engineering students, rehearsing their annual tradition of a mock haka, were confronted by the activist group He Taua. That confrontation led to the nation’s baptism of fire into addressing systemic racism.

“Masterfully brings to life a bold act of resistance….intensely funny, to heartbreakingly sad in a single beat– Theatreview

With dynamic performances from Roimata Fox (Ngāti Porou, Rongomaiwahine) (Waru, Muru), Nī Dekkers-Reihana (Ngāi Tu Te Auru, Ngā Puhi) (Waru, Anahera), Lauren Gibson (Be Longing, Anne Boleyn), Patrick Tafa (48 Nights on Hope Street, Westside), Aidan O’Malley (Bystander, Good Idea at the Time), Finley Hughes (Madagascar The Musical and Crash Bash: What if?) and Kauri Williams (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) (Astroman, The Brokenwood Mysteries), the ambitious stage production requires them to divide up 38 different roles. The students, activists and many others directly involved in or impacted by the haka party incident were interviewed by writer Katie Wolfe over a five-year period. Their verbatim accounts of what actually happened in 1979 are directly voiced onstage.

“…the relatively young ensemble never falters, effortlessly moving through distinct characters in the blink of an eye, and powerfully evoking the pain and conflict experienced by all sides.…a prime example of theatre's power to inform and enlighten audiences as well as entertain.”
– NZ Herald

Haka, he taonga tuku iho or ‘a treasure from ancestors’ is not only at the centre of the historic incident but also forms the play’s structure which sees the cast perform historical and contemporary haka to thrilling effect. Wolfe’s son, Nikau, composed the final haka, ‘He Taua’ performed in the play.

‘I wanted to use the medium of Māori performing arts to make the point that ignoring cultural appropriation and disrespect does matter… it reminds us that racism is a continuum; it is founded in fear, and we must always be vigilant to check our prejudice, to face our fears,’ – Katie Wolfe

PANNZ (Performing Arts Network New Zealand) is delighted to offer this work to four of the six centres as part of its 2023 touring programme. Kaiārahi Māori, Dolina Wehipeihana says “PANNZ is honoured to assist this work in being seen on our arts touring network. Work of this quality should be experienced by all New Zealanders.”

Sir Howard Morrison Centre’s Performing Arts Director, Janelle Bish, says that the opportunity for Rotorua audiences to be able to see this work is a one-off gift that should be seized by anyone with an interest in our cultural history and experiencing brilliant theatre. 

The Sir Howard Morrison Centre is thrilled to be able to partner on the presentation of this season that will provide accessibly priced tickets for our local rangatahi as well as an evening performance for the whole community to enjoy.  “New Zealand work of this calibre having adequate resource to manage travelling to regional New Zealand centres is rare and we are very proud to host this talented company in the retelling of such a watershed moment for our nation.  

Writer & Director: Katie Wolfe (Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Toa Rangatira)
Kaiako Kapa Haka/ Kaitito Haka Nīkau Balme (Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Toa Rangatira)
Sound Design & Musical Direction: Kingsley Spargo
Taonga Pūoro Whetu Silver (Ngāti Pakahi ki Whangaroa, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāpuhi)
Set Design: John Verryt
Lighting Design: Jo Kilgour
Costume Design: Alison Reid

The Haka Party Incident is supported by Creative New Zealand, produced by Tasman Ray Productions and presented as part of the PANNZ (Performing Arts Network New Zealand) touring programme. By arrangement with Playmarket.

Published 05 Jun 2023