'Hemo is Home' opens newly renovated Te Pou Theatre

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Writer Tainui Tukiwaho’s latest play, Hemo is Home, premiered at the newly renovated Te Pou Theatre last Friday, starring an array of high-profile Māori actors.

The play also stars Tukiwaho’s 10-year-old son in the lead role, and was written with his five children as a fun way to keep his tamariki occupied during the pandemic.

The synopsis for the show reads: “In just a few days Hemo will turn 10, which means he will finally be able to leave the safety of his urupā home and see the world. The only thing stopping that from happening is the Patupaiarehe who needs to devour Hemo’s mauri before he achieves this milestone.  With the help of his Nanny Gugu and the rest of his ghost whānau Hemo only has to survive a few more days. But will the love of his family be enough to keep young Hemo safe?”

Maaka Pohatu, of TV show Wellington Paranormal and the Modern Māori Quartet, is among the cast members and she says Friday’s show was awesome having a live audience attend the first show in the upgraded Te Pou Theatre.

Hemo is Home plays out to audiences until Sunday.

Pohatu plays Koro Renata Tait, also known as Koro Blossom, a character fit for a story with the theme that it takes a village to raise a child “but in this case it takes an urupā”.

“There are some quite heavy things in the show but it’s still light-hearted and, in some places, a bit scary,” he says.

To help deal with some of the sadder themes of the show such as loss, life and death, karakia is said both before and after the show for the audience and cast.

Included in the cast are TVNZ’s Te Rauhiringa Brown, Awhina Rose Ashby and Brownyn Turei but it also includes some young up-and-comers such as Te Rongopai Curreen-Tukiwaho who plays Hemo.

“There is hard work and focus and being able to apprentice under more experienced people in this industry you’re lucky to be surrounded by lots of wonderfully talented and experienced people.

“One secret is that there’s no secret.”

The remaining shows will play at the Henderson Theatre until this Sunday.

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air