Waihoroi to play Blind Man in Te Pō

By Tamati Tiananga

Māori broadcasting veteran Waihoroi Shortland returns to the stage for the first time in more than a decade to play a blind Māori man in the award-winning show Te Pō. 

 "When they offered me the part, they said: 'Shortland, you're following in the footsteps of George Henare and Rawiri Paratene' and to me, that's enough to frighten anyone," Shortland says. "You're following in the footsteps of the giants of the industry."

But the 69-year-old says age is just a number and he has more to offer.  He adds when the opportunity presented itself due to the unavailability of two outstanding actors he describes as men in a class of their own, it was a chance he couldn't decline.

He says he is privileged to play a character performed by renowned Māori actors George Henare and Rawiri Paratene and has pushed himself to do justice to the character, which also requires Shortland to flex his vocals, singing a number of songs including the Prince Tui Teka song, E Ipo, written by Ngoi Pewhairangi.       

Respected career

"When they told me what the songs were, I said 'No worries, I've been singing these songs at parties since I could lift a glass'. But when I got here it was quite different.”  

Shortland plays the character Weirdo in the 2010 comedy-drama film Boy and Puhi's adult son, Niki, in the 2008 feature film Rain of The Children.

The Reo Māori expert has written scripts for the 2001 movie Crooked Earth and was Māori advisor for the 1993 New Zealand movie The Piano

In 2003 he won the NZ Film Award for Best Actor, after playing Shylock (Hairoka) in the movie The Māori Merchant of Venice.

In the centenary year of playwright Bruce Mason's birth, the award-winning show Te Pō is performed for the first time in the theatre named after him in Takapuna this weekend.

 “This is a search for Bruce Mason that was cleverly written by Carl Bland, who’s also one of the actors. The way he has moulded reo Māori and reo pākekā together, Karl has created the mechanisms for us the explore,” Waihoroi says.   

Te Pō draws on the characters of Bruce Mason’s legacy of plays and reimagines them in this contemporary work – all set in Takapuna - where Mason spent his childhood years.

Searching for Mason

A policeman, a priest, and a blind man looking for clues that will lead them to the missing playwright Bruce Mason. Where has he gone? What made him leave his desk and vanish into the night? And what is that seagull at the window trying to say? For Te Pō's odd characters, finding Bruce Mason has become a matter of life, death, and catching a big fish.

From the creators of Mr Red Light, Te Pō is an eloquent and surprising comedy punctuated by Māori showband songs. It’s about searching for someone you have loved and lost and finding them again. 

This acclaimed show was originally co-produced by the Auckland Arts Festival and the New Zealand Festival of the Arts and rated highly with reviewers.

“It makes a great tribute," Shortland says. 

Written by Carl Bland, Te Pō is directed by Ben Crowder, designed by Andrew Foster, John Gibson, Elizabeth Whiting and Nik Janiurek. The actors are Carl Bland, Andrew Grainger, Waihoroi Shortlandand Anton Falstie-Jensen.