Playmarket is pleased to announce that Tainui Tukiwaho (Te Arawa, Tuhoe, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) is the winner of the 2023 Bruce Mason Playwriting Award. The $10,000 cash prize recognises professional success in the career of a writer and is designed to encourage their continued exploration of the theatre medium.

Tainui began his career as an actor after graduating from Unitec School of Performing Arts in 2001. Using this skill as a foundation for storytelling, he progressed to directing and writing where he has built a sizable resume. Tainui observed a lack of Māori voices on our professional stages and quickly adopted and implemented a distinctive style and perspective representative of his cultural background. Alongside Amber Curreen and Regan Taylor, he is a co-founder of Te Rēhia Theatre Company, a Māori theatre company committed to the reclamation, revitalisation and representation of te ao Māori on our stages. He is also a founding leader and Poutoko Wairua of Te Pou Theatre, Tāmaki Makaurau’s kaupapa Māori performing arts venue.

Tainui’s play, The Sun and the Wind premiered to great acclaim in Wellington in July. Critics described the play as ‘a profound evocation of despair, loss and grief’ and ‘a powerful showing of love, jealousy and what can fester in between’. The production, staged by Taurima Vibes at Circa, has been nominated for six Wellington Theatre Awards, including Best New Aotearoa Play and Production of the Year. The Sun and the Wind will next be seen at the Auckland Arts Festival in 2023.

Hemo is Home, the play Tainui wrote during lockdown with his tamariki, opened the newly renovated Te Pou theatre in March 2023. The play follows the adventures of a young Māori boy who is raised by his ghost ancestors at the whānau urupā and was described by critics as ‘pure magic’. Hemo is Home was named runner-up in the 2022 Adam NZ Play Award.

The third of Tainui’s plays to premiere in 2023, Te Tangi a te Tūī, co-written with Amber Curreen, premiered at The Cultch in Vancouver, Canada in October. The co-production between Te Rēhia Theatre Company and The Dust Palace is an epic te reo fusion of dance, circus and theatre. In addition to his writing credit, Tainui also directed and performed in Te Tangi a te Tūī. The piece will make its Aotearoa debut at Te Pou as part of the 2023 Auckland Arts Festival.

Tainui’s other works include the international co-production Black Ties (Te Rehia Theatre and Ilbijerri Theatre), Te Haerenga o Hōiho, Lost in Translation, Racists Anonymous, Larger Than Life, Ruia te Kākano and Hoki Mai Tama Mā.

Since 1983 The Bruce Mason Playwriting Award has recognised the work of outstanding New Zealand playwrights. The recipient is decided through voting by a panel of leading Artistic Directors, Theatre Programmers and Script Advisors and practitioners throughout Aotearoa. Previous winners include many of this country’s most celebrated writers including Hone Kouka, Briar Grace-Smith, Jo Randerson, Victor Rodger, Ralph McCubbin Howell, Mitch Tawhi Thomas, Sam Brooks, Mīria George, Nathan Joe and Nancy Brunning.

The Award is named after Bruce Mason, considered to be New Zealand’s first most significant playwright. His plays continue to be produced and many, such as The Pohutukawa Tree and The End of the Golden Weather have come to be considered New Zealand classics. The award is funded by The FAME Trust and Rachel Underwood.