Created and performaed by Regan Taylor
Directed by Craig Geenty
Produced by Te Rēhia Theatre Company
15 – 18 June 2016
SolOTHELLO is a solo performance adapted from Shakespeare’s Othello that came to life not out of love of the bard but through a need to make Shakespeare more accessible to a wider community.
The poetic language of Shakespeare means it often goes unappreciated in certain communities. Creator and performer Regan Taylor admits he didn’t like Shakespeare when he first began to examine the stories. “One of the things I knew about it is that it seemed old, but it was sort of three steps away from what I wanted to enjoy in theatre.”
He quickly discovered that themes in Othello were still relevant today and that the use of language with the imagery was not too far from an orator giving a korero, or a speech in Maori.
“The imagery that we use in spoken Maori is often as poetic as Shakespearian, so combining them was a beautiful experience and discovery for myself.”
Developed by Taylor and director Craig Geenty to showcase the new form of Te Mata Kokako o Rēhia (Māori Performance Mask), SolOTHELLO weaves together the original prose, modern English and Te Reo Māori to deliver a dynamic and cheeky interpretation of one of history’s more tragic plays.
The idea of the masks is very symbolic. Taylor realized in the masked world different nations have their own relationships to masks. Out of the Maori performance masks used two are half masked which allows the wearing the ability to talk Te Reo and Pūkana. The other is a full mask that covers the entire face used for female characters.
We have seen varations of Maori and Shakespeare before; in 2002 Matua Don Selwyn directed Merchant of Venice entirely in Te Reo Māori. In 2012 Troilus and Cressida was translated into Te Reo Māori and toured to the Globe in London. However an adaptation of a Shakespearen work with Te Reo Māori and the Māori performance masks is very new.
The masks were custom made by artist carver Tristan Marler and Taylor found when he started incorporation certain elements into his piece such as Kapa Haka or bird like movements the masks would come to life.
Taylor adjusts each performance to the audience and theatrical space he is in. High school performance only last 45 minutes, for Marae performance he alters the Te Reo in acknowledgement of the Whenua and people of that area, in theatres the lighting differs depending on how the masks react.
With a positive response from a range of audience members Taylor and Te Rēhia Theatre plan to continue the national tour of SolOTHELLO. After the Kia Mau wellington festival they tackle the Hawkes Bay Festival, the Nelson Arts Festival, The Auckland Matariki Festival and the ANZSA (Australia-New Zealand Shakespeare Association) convention in Hamilton this year.
Taylor may well have found himself a niche as his next project is a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which He is a Māori advisor