Maori play Te Puhi explores first Maori Miss New Zealand

Roimata Fox is excited to return to the Maori world in upcoming play Te Puhi.
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Roimata Fox is excited to return to the Maori world in upcoming play Te Puhi.

After a season in the realm of Shakespeare, Roimata Fox is ready to step back into her home world.

The Auckland actor is preparing to take the stage in Te Puhi, a coming of age drama that draws inspiration from the first beauty queens of New Zealand.

Fox has just finished a season of Much Ado About Nothing at the Pop-Up Globe, her first encounter with the world of Shakespeare.

Taupunakohe Tocker says Te Puhi is an authentic Maori story created by Maori.
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Taupunakohe Tocker says Te Puhi is an authentic Maori story created by Maori.

Now she is focused Te Puhi, a play written and produced by Cian Elyse Waiti, that follows Te Puhi Johnson as the first Maori to have been crowned Miss New Zealand.

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Five years later Puhi is living in London and receives a call back to Rotorua where she must deal with the fallout of her absence. 

Fox plays Te Puhi's older sister and describes her character as being "the ultimate lady of the pa (village)".

"I'm really loving stepping out of Shakespeare and coming into Te Ao Maori again," Fox said.

Te Ao Maori literally means "the Maori world".

Tapunakohe Tocker plays the lead role of Te Puhi and said the story explored her characters' disconnect from the Maori world as she became influenced by culture in the United Kingdom.

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"That's true in terms of our history, in terms of Maori, that did happen a lot of the time," Tocker said. 

"If they went outside the pa, they changed.

"So it talks about the connection and the disconnect, and then the coming back together."

Featuring English, Te Reo and French, Tocker said Te Puhi was the first play of its kind.

"It has lots of really beautiful elements, it's got singing, kapa haka and the telling of an authentic Maori story created by Maori." 

Both Fox and Tocker grew up in the town of Ruatoria on the East Coast with Te Reo being their first language.

They both said tall poppy syndrome was a common mentality in their communities, something they had to fight in order to pursue their interest in the performing arts

Tocker and Fox want shows such as Te Puhi to be a way of encouraging their people to take an interest in theatre and "catch the bug".

"We're hoping that by putting more female stories, Maori stories and positive stories out there, we'll also be encouraging more Maori to come and have a good time," Tocker said.

Te Puhi performs at the Herald Theatre from June 12 to 17.

 - Stuff

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