New Zealand recording artist and Maori TV presenter Ria Hall is currently performing a lead role in Tawata Productions' The Beautiful Ones.
Created by acclaimed writer and director Hone Kouka, The Beautiful Ones is a textured, multimedia, Pasifika-influenced performance featuring projected imagery, live roots music by Ria Hall and others, electric dancing choreographed by Tai Paitai, late night talk and beats.
The unique Tawata Productions' piece has one of the more unusual stage formats that have graced Auckland in the last year - with a large scale set and open dance floor a la some Bollywood film. The plot also echoes the aforementioned format, following the story of two young star crossed lovers Hana and Ihai; and whether their young, idealistic love can survive modernity and its temptations.
We talked to Ria Hall, who plays a starring role as Hana in the production about her influences, the play and her roots.
Concrete Playground: You started performing through your school's kapa haka group. Do you remember what made you want to get into it though?
Ria Hall: Yes, I started during my time at Tauranga Girls' College. I remember being very hungry and eager to perform as a youngster and felt that kapa haka was the perfect forum to express myself. I could sing and be proud of who I was as a young Māori girl growing up in my tribal area - I guess my ancestry compelled me to perform.
What is your favourite aspect of performance?
The feeling of reciprocity between yourself and the audience. There's something very electric about it, when the energies collide.
What made you want to work on The Beautiful Ones?
I've always been a fan of theatre, and when the opportunity came my way to be a part of The Beautiful Ones I jumped at the chance! Hone Kouka (the director) contacted my sister who then forwarded his contacts to me straight away and I got back to him immediately. The rest is history.
Who did you listen to growing up - who influences your style of music?
There were various artists playing on high rotate in my house as a child. Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Eddie Lovett, Roy Orbison and late '80s early '90s hip hop like NWA, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg blasted out of our stereo. I'm pretty eclectic and am open to styles, so I feel I'm influenced by everything that I've ever heard.
How does your background influence your art?
Well, my forthcoming album Rules of Engagement (due for release in June 2017) is conceptually based on the code of conduct scripted by Henare Taratoa in March 1864 outlining the manner in which war would ensure between colonial soldiers and local Māori in Tauranga. I am a direct descendant of the battle of Gate Pā. My background informs everything really!
What's the best part of working on The Beautiful Ones?
The ability to work with new fresh talent and watch them blossom on stage! They have such a zest and vitality, and bring so much to the show. It's wonderful to witness.
I'm not looking forward to saying goodbye to everyone!
Any advice to young artists wanting to do the same as you?
Work hard, be fair, remain humble, congratulate others on their successes.
Where to next?
I am releasing my single 'Love Will Lead Us Home' this Thursday actually. It'll be followed very closely by the video so I'm currently focusing on that. I'm also a part of the Marley - NZ All Stars lineup, alongside Anna Coddington, Boh Runga, Laughton and Fran Kora, Tiki Taane, Logan and Grenville Bell, P-Diggs to name but a few artists, and we starting touring on the 9th of December. I'm looking forward to that!
The Beautiful Ones is now playing at Aotea Centre. See our review for more details.