January 2017 at Te Papa Tongarewa


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Four plays by Helen Pearse-Otene

17 – 29 January 2017

Te Papa Tongarewa’s Soundings Theatre

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua
Man disappears but the land remains.
4 plays. 177 years of history. 28 performances. 30 performers.
100% the Treaty in action.

“There are many things I love about The Undertow. It features a cast and crew that are multigenerational. It uses te reo Māori and English. It’s ambitious in both script and theatrical style. There’s singing and dancing and it feels integrated. It tells a story that is of this place.” 

Never before attempted by a New Zealand Theatre Company, Te Rākau presented a quartet of plays in repertory about the ordinary people who lived through extraordinary times in our country’s history – The Undertow

The project had been 6 years in the making, as the ideas and scripts were developed and presented individually and critically described as deeply moving, compelling, generous, lyrical, and multi-layered. In January 2017 audiences got to see the works as they were always meant to be performed – together as a quartet. (The Ragged, Dog & Bone; Public Works and The Landeaters)

The four Undertow plays were presented at Te Papa Tongarewa’s Soundings Theatre in January 2017 in support of local iwi Ngati Toa’s residency at the museum and to coincide with Wellington Anniversary Day and Waitangi Day celebrations. Audiences experienced The Undertow over 2 evenings or together in one amazing day of theatre.

The Undertow in repertory aroused audiences’ curiosity about our capital city, our collective history, and our own family stories through a deep personal connection to our country’s history and the ordinary people who lived, loved, fought, won and lost to make Aotearoa what it is today.


“To have read or heard about our local history is one thing, but to see it portrayed in the way Te Rākau Theatre does is special and unique and not to be missed.” [The Dominion Post]