Love stories against epic backdrop
Pasefika is ‘‘pretty much bigger than Ben Hur’’, says Wellington actress Emma Kinane. The offering from Circa is part of the New Zealand Festival of the Arts.
It had a big set, big technical visuals and a ‘‘ huge’’ soundscape, Kinane said.
‘‘This is a festival show and we’ve all thrown everything at it,’’ she said.
Preparations have been challenging because of the technical elements that the actors can only imagine until dress rehearsals begin.
Pasefika concerns the relationships of 19th century French artist Charles Meryon, who spent time in Akaroa before returning to Paris to produce the etchings he is now known for.
George Henare appears with Kinane, and he said many of Meryon’s etchings incorporated images from his time in the Pacific, with whales and waka hidden in the clouds.
‘‘He was so bowled over with the openness and the light as opposed to Paris with its small streets,’’ he said.
Each of the cast’s four actors play multiple roles as the plot switches back and forth between 1840s Akaroa and 1860 Paris, making for some stressful between-scenes changes into the elaborate costumes.
One of Henare’s roles is an opportunistic Maori chief.
‘‘All the visitors think he’s a big chief. All the locals think he’s that prick who’s going around selling shrunken heads and whatever to museums,’’ Henare said.
That character is counterpointed by the poet Baudelaire, Meryon’s Parisian friend who hopes to make a fortune from the sale of prints of the etchings.
He’s a bit of a sponger, using sex and whatever else he can to make a living, Henare said.
‘‘ They are both capitalistic entrepreneurs.’’
Stuart Hoar’s script took the Adam Award in 2010, but Kinane said this was its first outing, meanting that the actors had been forced to workshop it as they rehearsed.
Despite the large scale hightech production, it was really a series of love stories, said Aroha White – ‘‘lots of love squares’’.
The fourth cast member, Raumati actor Jason Whyte, said it was a domestic story.
Pasefika is directed by Susan Wilson. It opens at Circa Theatre on March 22 and runs until March 29.
Wild colonial: George Henare, Jason Whyte and Emma Kinane show off some of Pasefika’s elaborate costumes.