Play probes justice
Jamie McCaskill is unusually qualified to scrutinise New Zealand’s justice system, as both an accomplished playwright and a worker with troubled youth.
In his work at Challenge 2000 in Johnsonville he dealt with young offenders in the community and he became interested in the case of the country’s youngest killer, Bailey Junior Kurariki.
Although his latest play, Manawa was inspired by Kurariki’s story it was not about him but the justice system, McCaskill said.
Manawa contrasts the stories of two prisoners.
Mau Vaiaga, played by Natano Keni, is a recentlyarrived Samoan whose cultural error makes him a criminal in his new country.
Jimmy King, played by McCaskill, is an avowed career criminal.
Kali Kopae plays a lawyer conflicted between obligation to her iwi and her professional responsibilities.
‘‘The play is about the New Zealand justice system and how the public accept our justice system.
‘‘How we as New Zealanders like to rehabilitate criminals who are career [criminals], the public fascination with Bailey Junior Kurariki, following him since he was a kid, and how the media played a part in his offending,’’ McCaskill said.
‘‘In contrast to the Bailey Kur- ariki story we have someone who has been in the country for five months. He kills a kakapo.’’
King and Vaiaga have been thrust together as cellmates with very different attitudes.
King was also New Zealand’s youngest killer. Now a career criminal, he takes the view that he has done the crime and now must do the time.
‘‘He is in his thirties now and realises that he has tried to change his ways but the justice system says ‘ no, you are not a bad person’.’’
Vaiaga receives less sympathy for his crime of ignorance – killing and eating a kakapo.
‘‘They find strength in each other to get through it,’’ McCaskill said.
‘‘I wanted to show that people who are bad people and who make bad decisions have a beating heart, like the rest of us.’’
Manawa, directed by Regan Taylor, will open at Circa on September 15 and run until October 13.
It features Kali Kopae, Natano Keni, Jamie McCaskill and musician Simon Donald.
For more information call 801 7992 or visit circa.co.nz.
Her majesty’s hospitality: Playwright Jamie McCaskill, musician Simon Donald, Natano Keni and Kali Kopae appear in Manawa at Circa Theatre.