Modern Maori Quartet: Two Worlds (4 stars)

Modern Maori Quartet: Two Worlds

Modern cabaret theatre with a Maori heart

The Modern Maori Quartet's theatre offering is a little flimsy as a cohesive performance: there is a slim narrative of four souls in the antechamber of the afterlife, awaiting the move to heaven and trying to discover what is holding them back. While this gestures towards a comment on the past century's treatment of Maori culture, the concept comes across as a gimmick to frame the individual songs and monologues. Each member of the quartet comes from a different era – a war veteran, a nearly-was musician, a hip man about town and a contemporary student – and together they trace a social history of Maori masculinity. Each one gets the routine that reveals their unspoken truth, forcing them to confront their demons. Within this structure, the Quartet rock and swing through a series of entertaining and heart-felt numbers that combine their beautiful harmonies and lively musicianship.

The most telling story is 'uncle': his rejection of Maori language reflects his own negative experience at school, leading him to a lifelong struggle. The surface veneer of a smooth ladies man who liked a drink is stripped away to interrogate the treatment of Maori culture within the educational system, and the show's message of self-love is firmly connected to a wider acceptance and celebration of heritage. Bub, the youngest character, however, gets the best song-monologue: the quartet drop into a brutal haka that captures the pressures of modern life in its warlike gestures, stomps and chants. Simultaneously a reworking of indigenous dance and a thrilling commentary on psychological anguish, it is stunning and injects a moment of terror into the slick production.

An example of how cabaret can be developed into an extended narrative – a genre that member Rutene Spooner works to more autobiographical effect in his show Super Hugh-ManTwo Worlds has charm and warmth, cheek and humour, and superb musicality that contains fragments of brilliance and intensity.

Assembly George Square Studios, until 26 Aug, 3.50pm, £12 (£10).

Modern Maori Quartet: Two Worlds

  • 4 stars

Modern Maori Quartet in association with SquareSums&Co There are two sides to every story. And every story has a song. With signature style and humour Two Worlds weave together four stories full of heart and revelation that unfold the fabric of Maori musical culture, its genealogy and evolution. Layering an earnest…

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