Te reo fits Shakespeare 'perfectly'
Performing as the King of the Greeks while speaking Maori is a unique challenge, but one that Scotty Morrison is glad to be taking on.
The presenter of Marae Investigates and Te Karere, who also works as an adjunct professor of te reo at Unitec in Auckland, will be taking on the role of King Agamemnon in Arts Festival show The Maori Troilus and Cressida.
Having studied the intricacies of the Maori language for more than 20 years, Morrison is using his knowledge to help present the Shakespearean tragedy entirely in te reo.
"There is real value in doing a show like this because it's helping to rejuvenate the Maori language. Being able to bring the language alive and present it to people in different ways is something I'm really passionate about."
Morrison, 40, first engaged with te reo when starting university at the age of 19. "When I first started out I knew two Maori words: Kia and ora."
Having performed in a te reo version of The Merchant of Venice 10 years ago, Morrison is familiar with how well the language can fit with Shakespeare's style.
"Shakespeare is incredibly metaphorical and poetic, which is actually very much the way Maori used to be spoken as well.
"It has become more colloquial, but our language actually fits perfectly with the rhythm and emotion of Shakespeare."
Showing the young cast from Troilus some of the differences between traditional Maori and the conversational form they have grown up with is a challenge, Morrison says.
"They are two quite different things, but the rhythm remains the same which is the important thing.
"I can be there to help when they are inflecting things in a different way, but the natural poeticism of the language means it's been brilliant to see how te reo rejuvenates the play."
The entire cast will be travelling to London next month to take part in a global Shakespeare festival, with crews from around the world performing shows in their native tongue at the Globe Theatre.
"It should be an incredible experience. Language can have such an impact on the way emotions are delivered, so I think we're in for something special."
The Maori Troilus and Cressida is in Te Papa's amphitheatre at 6pm tomorrow and Saturday. Free entry.