Actor Hori Ahipene embraces new role as murdered gay man

By Taroi Black

From comedy in The Ring Inz to gripping drama in his bee play, Hori Ahipene has chosen a groundbreaking play for his return to the stage after 16 years.

Normally known for his roles in drag, such as Aunty Mavis on The Ring INZ, Angel on Outrageous Fortune, Mrs Semisi in Skitz, Ahipene “butches it up” in this play, playing a closeted gay man, married with children, murdered by his lover.

“I've played a few Takas in my time,” he says.

Provocation is a play that is close to his heart - the unjust killing of gay men where their killers got away with their murder.

Hori Ahipene and Joe Dekker-Reihana starring in the upcoming play Provocation. Photo / File

By using the 'Provocation' defence, the killers were successful in downgrading their convictions to manslaughter.

Ahipene admits his role in the play has “proved to be a real challenge” in comparison to some of the most well-recognised roles he has played previously, either as a tane or a wahine.

But being one of New Zealand’s most prolific actors, he is also trying to break the mould.

“People tend to put you in the box, I've had to convince people to audition me for roles that are heterosexual.”

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The Ring INZ.  Photo / File

The Ring Inz star is challenging himself in the upcoming play, which will take the stage during Pride Week.

Inspired by real events, the play is about killers of gay men who avoid murder convictions by convincing a jury that they were provoked.

An intimate scene from Provocation. Photo / File

Joe Dekker Reihana who stars in the role of the killer in the play says men in Aotearoa need more guidance and understanding.  

“I think he [the killer] represents a world of young men who have made the wrong choices but have to be accountable for what they're doing," Reihana says.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand working with the cast. Photo / File

Provocation is written by Aroha Awarau and directed by Jennifer 'Atamira' Ward-Lealand. 

Playwright Awarau told Te Ao Māori News the reason he wrote the story of Provocation was due to the recent homophobic comments on Twitter by rugby player Israel Folau.

The purpose of this story was to eradicate homophobia, since Folau launched a campaign on GoFundMe which raised over $2 million from his staunch supporters to help his case, after been sacked by Rugby Australia for his comments on social media that all gay people would 'go to hell'.

This raised much concern among the Rainbow Community that homophobia is alive and well.

“People think by having these views it is harmless but it’s not,” Awarau says.

Playwright Aroha Awarau. Photo / File

Awarau was himself a victim of homophobia, which resulted in him being beaten up in Auckland and hospitalised.

The trauma has inspired him to write this story on Provocation with the hope of saving innocent lives from being subjected to homophobia.

“Provocation is no longer used in legal defence but the attitudes that made it successful still exist,” he says.

 Provocation opens at Auckland's Herald Theatre on 15 February.