Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin
Entering into the Dome Stage we are met with only a Plastic Waka dressing the stage. The Plastic Waka came with a plaque describing its fascinating origin: they don’t know! Found on accident in a roadside ditch in Dunedin 2020, no crafters ever came forward and so credit for the creation has never been claimed. A traditional waka created out of recycled materials and plastics which no one is sure where it came from is Martyn’s vessel for the performance that he shall store things in, sit upon and use to paddle through uncertain waters of an Aotearoan identity.
This piece is some of the most relevant political theatre happening, and not from a place of great change or complete upheaval, but instead from Martyn’s pure honesty, vulnerability, and articulation of his situation. I won’t spoil any of Martyn’s content but at it’s most political it is about the classification of Māori. Who is a Māori person? What counts?
Martyn is a powerful storyteller, alluring in his earnestness. Mobile and energetic when delivering jokes or putting on characters, solemn and heartfelt in moments that matter to him (another beautiful part of Martyn’s performance is that you can see how much all of it matters to him) oh, and this guy sings and plays the guitar? Like, real well? Music is dispersed throughout the body of work to elaborate on some of the trickier feelings with rhythm and humour, ultimately making them more accessible.
He Māori? is relevant. It feels right. It feels like the opening of a door. It is needed. This show takes something that scuttles around inside people, on their heart and in their skulls, and places it on full display. Look. Look at this show. Go when you can, and listen when others talk about it. It is necessary. It makes people feel valid. I have never felt so seen before. I needed this. I cried. I wanted this. I expected this show to hit real hard and it DID. Expertly crafted, naturally delivered. It feels like a crashing wave. It feels like a waiata. It feels like a “kia ora!” He Māori? is a warm hug to the Māori souls who have been raised Pākehā because of colonisation and its lingering scars. Let Isaac Martyn be the catalyst to some of the biggest conversations you have with your friends, your whānau, even yourself. Engage honestly with your own situation in the complicated mess that is our place on this whenua.
I desperately hope that the team behind He Māori? have plans on taking it further. The show unwraps concepts too near and dear to my heart, and Martyn articulates them too well for me to have anything but the utmost praise for him. I will be watching your career with a keen eye, Isaac Martyn. May you feel supported and may you constantly find the confidence to continue your journey. From one Pākehā Māori to another *sips water from powerade bottle* Māuri ora.
He Māori? has wrapped up its run as part of the Tahi Festival, but you can find more info on this season here.