Breaking the Stage: From Te Matatini to Footprints/Tapuwae
There’s too much talk of decolonising the stage, as if the theatre were not itself a colonial artefact, a hangover from the settlers’ desire to appear civilised in what they saw as a savage land. Here we reject the notion of ‘syncretic’ or ‘hybridic’ theatre, because when European and Māori performance practices meet and mingle under the proscenium arch waters that should be troubled are smoothed beyond recognition. We want to see the stage broken open, its fragments exposed to a critical gaze that recalls rather than transcends social history, that seeks not to console but to confront and catapult us, if not into direct action, then into a conversation that does more than keep us contained within the frame of the dominant culture. This paper is written as two sides of an ongoing debate about the relationship between the theatrical and the social in not-quite-post colonial Aotearoa New Zealand. We look at Te Matatini – the biannual national Kapa Haka Festival, most recently held in Christchurch in March 2015 – and at Footprints/Tapuwae – a bicultural opera first produced in 2001 and revived in June 2015 by the Free Theatre Christchurch – to find powerful cultural performances and contrary theatricalities in 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand.