February 22nd, 2014 at 11:14 pm by David Farrar

I wasn’t sure I would ever get to watch Pasefika tonight as there were no car parks within half a km of Theatre. I finally gave up circling around and parked in the New World car park (sorry NW!). I got to the theatre with around 30 seconds to spare.

In my mind I was thinking that I could head home at half time, as I didn’t want to leave my car for two hours in a 90 minute zone and risk a ticket or being towed.

Within around quarter of an hour I was quite engrossed into the play, and any thought of not seeing the second half died a hasty death. Once we did get to the interval, I ran back to the NW car park and moved the car into a paid park by Te Papa that had come free.

The play was based in Paris in the 1860s and Akaroa in the 1840s, with the common them being the French artist Charles Méryon, who was played brilliantly by Jason Whyte. You first see Méryon in Paris as a determined and somewhat demented pursuer of Louise Niveau, a waitress in a Parisian cafe. She reminds him of someone from his past – Ruiha, the daughter of Te Rangi, the head of a hapu in Akoroa.

The play moves backwards and forwards from Paris to Akaroa, with seamless transitions. Meryon in real life did live in Akaroa for two years and this had an impact on his art.

Aroha White played standoffish Ruiha and enthusiastic Niveau very well. Simple costume changes transformed her.

Emma Kinane also had a dual role as Madame Bourgeois in Akaroa and Jeanne Dival in Paris. Madame Bourgeois was a Frenchwoman who had done the unthinkable, and married a native. Both Méryon and Ruiha were disapproving for opposite but equal reasons – the races shouldn’t mix.

Finally you had George Henare as Te Rangi and also as the poet Baudelaire. Henare managed both gravity and a genius for comical timing. The play sounds very serious and intense, but in fact there are lots of laughs, and some wonderfully direct language.

The play was effectively a play of five love stories – Te Rangi and Madame Bourgeois, Méryon ad Ruiha, Méryon and Niveau, Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval and also Baudelaire and Niveau. They are told in a way which captures both New Zealand and French culture.

It was a great show. The acting was first class and captivating.

3 Responses to “Pasefika”

  1. Harriet (7,512 comments) says:

    “….Meryon in real life did live in Akaroa for two years and this had an impact on his art….”

    I didn’t know that David.

    Is much of the play based on facts, or has a good story been woven around Meryon, Paris and Akaroa?

    “A fascinating and funny world …intelligent and entertaining …this is my sort of history” – Adam Award panel.
    I got this from the link and it implies there is some history – or maybe not.

    The reason I ask is that I have always had a big interest in France and French culture [I trained as a chef and mostly worked with French cooking, pastry, confectionary ect] and also have a little knowledge of Akaroa’s past French history – although I’d be interested in more. I’ll now look Meryon up further. Thanks David.

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  2. hane (87 comments) says:

    Why don’t you just walk? Don’t you live in Thorndon?

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  3. David Farrar (1,766 comments) says:

    Harriet: The dialogue is all invented but the Parisian personalities and their interactions are based on reality.

    Hane: In hindsight I should have. I do often, but have a run at 8 am this morning, so didn’t want to get home too late.

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