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

Her majesty’s hos­pi­tal­ity: Play­wright Jamie McCaskill, mu­si­cian Si­mon Don­ald, Natano Keni and Kali Kopae ap­pear in Manawa at Circa The­atre.

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