NZ Festival 2014
Stones In Her Mouth
Opera House, Wellington
Until March 5
Reviewed by Ann Hunt
Mau director Lemi Ponifasio believes theatre is a give-and-take experience between creator and audience, a little like a conversation and considers when people come to the theatre, they should prepare to confront their own ideas. Stones in her Mouth will give audiences plenty of opportunity to do that.
The work's title from Roma Potiki's poems indicates this is not going to be light entertainment. It is moving, anger-making, thought- provoking and stunningly beautiful to watch and listen to.
The concept, design, choreography and direction are all by Ponifasio and all are exceptional.
The magnificent lighting is by Helen Todd. The fusion of design and Todd's darkly atmospheric lighting are a superb unit, as inseparable as paint from canvas. All parts of this production are to the highest standard. These include moteatea composition by Ria Te Uira Paki, Te Ara Vakaafi, Rangipo Wallace-Ihakara and Mere Boynton, and whaikorero/ oratory composition by Hinerongonui Kingi. The un-credited electronic score is also exceptional.
Utilising, oratory, chant, poi, choral-work and dance Ponifasio and his company of 10 splendid dancers give us their hearts in this outpouring of grief for what has been and is being done to Aotearoa, its land, its seas, its children and its people. This is achieved not by invective or laboured imagery. Go early. Read the programme notes and the poems.
Certain passages are unforgettable. A naked woman, a blood-red cross painted down her body like a crucifix, erupting in spasms of rage and grief. The kneeling woman, dignified, singing to break your heart as a baby cries a little in the background. And the final line of warrior women, facing down the audience, their poi like marching feet, a drum, relentless as time.
This production is indeed a conversation, but one that asks many questions. All you need to bring to it is your mind and ngakau, your spiritual heart.
- The Dominion Post