WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Hutt colleges probe vagaries of war in Maori play


October 2013

Petra Jaeger-Letts

The two Lower Hutt colleges St Bernards and Sacred Heart came together recently for a moving rendition of the Te Rakau Trust play, The Battalion.

Helen Pearse-Otene wrote the play based on the story of the 28th Maori Battalion in World War II and it was first performed in the 2006 International Arts Festival.

The play follows three grandchildren of one of the battalion’s veterans as they uncover the experiences of their grandfather and his army mates, many not much older than the students themselves.

Veteran actor Jim Moriarty directs the show and plays the main part though he stepped aside for several performances to make way for student Hosea Tapu’i, for whom the play has suggested a change of plan. Instead of university, he will now pursue a career in the theatre.

The structure of the play calls on actors to improvise within their parts and every student has the chance to play all the characters. Waiata and kapa haka play a central role and the actors also do some swing dancing popular in the 1940s.

A highlight from one of the eight performances between 30 July and 3 August came when St Bernards parent Trip Tuau told the story of his father during the korero feedback session afterwards and sang ‘Whakaaria Mai’. Many others in the packed audiences also told personal stories in a glowing response to the play and some returned to see the play a second or third time.

The 25 students from St Bernard’s and the 15 Sacred Heart students spent more than 250 hours rehearsing after school and at weekends and holidays for the performances in Sacred Heart’s new Performing Arts Centre. For many students participation in the play was also an assessment vehicle gaining them credits for their performances.

Their hard work and commitment paid off with a show that was nothing less than spectacular, highlighting their singing, acting, kapa haka and dancing talents.

We are all so proud of our drama students. They are a credit to their families and their schools. Well done, all of you!

Petra Jaeger-Letts is drama teacher at St Bernard’s College.