On Thursday we had something of a visitation in the form of a story telling show by Nelson actress, Lisa Allan. Great for the show to come here, and it also christened a new intimate venue (something Greymouth lacks), an upstairs space in the Regent complex whose only disadvantage is the lack of disabled access.
Rapanui, The Song of Stone, has to be considered from two angles: as a performance and as a content. Lisa Allan is an experienced and very competent performer, always a pleasure to watch. Movement, voice and choice of costume and props were all graceful. There was a touch of the cute little girl in her acting, but that was forgivable.
When it comes to the content, things became more complex. Solo performance is often closely linked to the performer who has devised/written the piece, often as an expression of self, so that the boundary between objective and subjective content is seamless.
Home and belonging provided the theme. Each member of the audience was greeted by Lisa, offered a small stone and asked, Where is home for you? She then proceeded to explore the topic for herself, using stone as the symbol of absolute foundation – of the planet, the universe, the soul etc. Where to from there? A bit of intergalactic travel, an encounter at a Reiki workshop, and it was threatening to become a new age ramble until we hit the real story: the Waitaha project.
This is a contentious project, which has led to something of a cult. Waitaha were a tribe living in the south who were conquered by Ngati Moemoe and then by Ngai Tahu. The cult belief is that they were the founding people of Aotearoa, here before the Northern tribes turned up. They were a peaceful folk, in touch with the strong spirits of the island – hence the cave drawings. The mythology has been taken up by some Pakeha, for it fits into the noble savage paradigm. It is also a way of avoiding the more earthy and challenging Tiriti and colonising dramas and their impact on Maori and the subsequent need for reparation. Instead, Pakeha can join Waitaha in a retrospective new age, leaving behind the hurly burly of the 21st century for a more spiritual time. This cult is a curious South Island phenomenon.
Nevertheless, the next day I was feeling a spiritual connection with the extraordinary landscape that is Te Wai Pounamu, a different landscape and a different sort of connection from that which one has with the more intimate and softer Northern island. So, I thank Lisa and her storytelling for this.