Whitireia graduates and students take to the screen in the new, exciting TV series - Undertow

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Whitireia is delighted several of its Performing Arts students and graduates are performing in an exciting new TV series - Undertow - which has just debuted on Māori Television.

2. Full Te Rakau cast c2019 Tabitha Arthur Photography

The four-part series is a play written by renowned playwright, Helen Pearse-Otene, and focuses on 200 years and six generations in one family on one piece of land, through pivotal moments in New Zealand’s history: from the arrival of settler ships, through war, to urban, modern-day New Zealand life. It is the story of both Māori and Pakeha, and the relationship between the two. 

The script, directed by Jim Moriarty, MNZM, was originally presented as a play in 2017 by theatre company Te Rākau, through its Theatre Marae programme. Cinematographer, Waka Attewell, visited early rehearsals of the work, and immediately knew the work was significant and must be shared with wider audiences through television. As a result, it was filmed over in the Soundings Theatre at Te Papa, with a cast of 28 actors. Waka has retained the physical and emotional immediacy of watching a live performance and has captured Te Rākau’s Theatre Marae style. 

Undertow’s first episode screened on Māori Television on Thursday 31st October at 9.30 pm and each episode is available everywhere on-demand following broadcast. 

In the third episode, Greer Phillips, who graduated from Whitireia with a Diploma of Stage and Screen Arts, takes centre-stage in the series as Fleur, a Belgian Red Cross nurse embroiled in the emotional and physical trauma of war. 

“I feel very connected to the character of Fleur. It was an actor’s dream to dive into this particular piece of theatre and create her, to give her a voice and a body in present-day New Zealand. 

“There is a lot of weight to that work and the Undertow world. The feelings it invoked could be overpowering at times – sometimes we really needed to debrief.”