05 September 2011

I, George Nepia: "expect to cry, to laugh, to marvel at this great man"

Actor Jarod Rawiri talks to drama on the waterfront about the Tawata Productions world premiere of I, George Nepia, opening in Circa Two on 7 September.

DOTW: Can you tell us about the story of I, George Nepia? How familiar were you with this story before you started work on this play?

JR: It is a script inspired by an autobiography of the same name. Terry MacLean worked with George to write the story of George Nepia’s amazing life both on and off the field. Our play focuses on the Invincibles tour of 1924 when the All Blacks went to England, Wales, Ireland and France, winning every game they played. That’s 30 games in all. Amazing considering George played in all of them. I knew George was a legendary All Black but I knew none of the things that he accomplished and there was quite a list.

DOTW: What are the challenges/pressures in portraying such an iconic figure? What has been the best part of the process, for you?

JR: He is a legendary full stop so once I became comfortable with that it all kind of fell into place. He did so many things but maintained a humble, genuine way about him. As it is a solo show there are many challenges for an actor to overcome: multiple characters, the physicality of rugby and his prowess as a musician. That was the scariest thing for me. I started learning the guitar 2 weeks before we started rehearsal. I have to play it in the show. Hopefully I have passed.

DOTW: I understand family members of George Nepia are associated with this play; how did they help to shape the development of the play and your portrayal?

JR: There was no way that we could ever have tried to do this play without getting it right for his whanau first. That is how Hone Kouka approached the initial script idea. George Nepia Jr came to the first public reading and was very supportive of what Hone was trying to say about his koro. Once he knew that the whanau were supportive we set about bringing his script to life.

DOTW: What can you tell us about playwright Hone Kouka and director Jason Te Kare? What was it like working with each of them?

JR: I put it this way, they are my theatre whanau. Hone has been a big influence on me as an actor as well as a Maori actor. His writing always has an unassuming strength to it. It gently taps you on the shoulder and says, ‘What do you think about this?’, rather than bashing you on the head so you can’t help but listen. Jason is a big brother, who I looked up to and it is only natural that he is directing now. He takes it very seriously and has so much knowledge it’s a little scary. We are both G I boys too. Glen Innes for the uneducated. Ha ha.

DOTW: Finally, what can audiences expect from I, George Nepia?
JR: I have been asked this question before and my answer was this: expect to cry, to laugh, to marvel at this great man. He was a great rugby player but his greatest desire was to be a good father, a loving husband and to live a quiet simple life. I think you did that e koro. 

I, George Nepia runs until 16 September. To buy tickets, contact the Circa box office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz

No comments:

Post a Comment