Witi's Wāhine returns to the theatre stage

By Marena Mane

Last week the Auckland Theatre Company announced its 2022 season of shows featuring works that reflect and connect Tāmaki Makaurau.

One of those eight works is Witi's Wāhine - a play written by the late Nancy Brunning, bringing to life the formidable female characters in Witi Ihimaera's short stories and novels.  

Producer of the play Tanea Heke says that the play glorifies wāhine Māori, which she says is often an aspect that doesn’t show when Ihimaera’s books are adapted into films.

“The importance of the play is for women to be able to recognise themselves in these strong and beautiful characters.”

“It really speaks to us of course because it’s about our nanny and sisters and mums and cousins,” Heke says.  

Heke says Nancy Brunning wrote this play as a tribute to those Māori who guided her to write and referred to Don Selwyn, Keri Kaa, and Wi Kuki Kaa as the trailblazers.

“Now her name will also be amongst all those wonderful rangatira. She was the stalwart of Māori theatre.”

Heke says Brunning always wanted to thank Ihamaera for storytelling and for always wanting to tell stories where Māori are central characters and it opened up the world for her.  

“Often she felt that when Witi's books were adapted into films that the role of the wahine was became marginalised a little and she wanted to return the mana to those characters.”

Witi’s Wahine will be on stage at the ASB Theatre next year from May 10-28.