Hūrai is a story of Māori and missionaries in the early 19th century. The characters are based loosely on an amalgam of European figures and the movement which originated around Papahurihia, a somewhat mysterious figure known also as Atua Wera - the red/burning god. In the 1830s Papahurihia led a counter-movement to the conventional Christian mission, using a potent mixture of Old Testament and Māori lore. Calling themselves ‘Hūrai’ (Jews), they reflected a commonly held notion that Māori were the children of Shem, the lost tribe of Israel. Hūrai is modelled on the Greek Bacchae and, like Euripides’ play, explores the emotional consequences for individuals in a clash of religious and cultural values.