28 November 2011

I, George Nepia: Rugby's first global superstar

Playwright Hone Kouka talks about his play, I George Nepia, which will return for a second season at Circa 8-17 December.

DOTW: For those who weren’t able to see I, George Nepia the first time it was at Circa, what is the story?

HK: I, George Nepia is the story of a country boy who, after the All Blacks 1924 tour of the UK, became rugby’s first global superstar. It also follows parts of his life after rugby in particular his relationship with his eldest son and wife.

DOTW: What made you decide to write this play? What is your connection to this story?

HK: The decision to write the play now was due to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, it was also that nothing had been written about this man. My connection to the story is that he is a great uncle to me on my mother’s side of the whanau and that I was brought up on the legend of the great George Nepia.

DOTW: What can you tell us about actor Jarod Rawiri? What do you think of his portrayal of your script?

HK: Jarod Rawiri is an established stage and screen actor based in Auckland, he was recently nominated for best actor in a television series for the 2011 AFTA’s for his portrayal of Hone Heke.

Jarod’s portrayal of young and old George is “fabulous,” this is the word used by one of George Nepia’s family members who attended the opening of the play during the first season at Circa. Jarod has also been nominated for a best actor award at the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre awards for his portrayal of George Nepia.

DOTW: Tell us a bit about the development process; when did you begin working on it and how did it get from there to here?

HK: I thought about the story and how to tell the story of George Nepia, not long after it was announced that NZ would be hosting the 2011 RWC. The early sketches were workshopped in June of this year at the Matariki Development Festival and the script that is seen on stage is what was created. It was a relatively short amount of time to actually write the work.

DOTW: George Nepia’s whanau attended the play during its original season at Circa – what were their reactions to the play?

HK: The reaction for the Nepia whanau who attended the opening night of the original Circa season was excellent, some members called out to the character of George during the performance, most grabbed those involved with the project to give thanks of a wonderful picture of their grandfather, uncle, father. It was a privilege for us also to work so closely with George Nepia III in the development of the work.

DOTW: Finally, I, George Nepia enjoyed a sell out season at Circa in September – what has been the general response from the audience?

HK: The general response has been very positive, a nice surprise for us is that the theatre and rugby community have both responded similarly, both very positive.

To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

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