Hide The Dog

Nathan Maynard (pakana) and writer Jamie McCaskill (Māori). Directed by Isaac Drandic. Performing Lines TAS/ Sydney Festival. Drama Theatre. Sydney Opera House. 7-8 Jan, 2023.

Reviewed : 6 January, 2023*

Photo : Sydney Festival publicity material

Hide the Dog is a story about two children, two nations and a lone native dog. It’s a story about the “celebration of adventure, friendship and the power of culture”.

Niarra and Te Umuroa are best friends, but they are sad because Te Umuroa has to go back to New Zealand (Aotearoa) to learn more about his own heritage. They hide their sadness by teasing each other until they find a surviving Tasmanian Tiger hiding in their bush playground. Niarra explains that they will have to protect it before hunters come and take it away for “science”. As helicopters hover above them, they decide to sail their new friend, whom they call “Tigs”, in a canoe across the ocean to safety in Aotearoa.

Escaping the hunters is not their only worry. They also have to contend with Māori gods and palawa spirits who try to thwart them. One rises from the water on a huge iceberg-like rock; another dances around them brandishing a spear, shouting his name and, to the delight of the young audience, farting outrageously! Undaunted, the pair sail on into the scary dark ocean fog. They are separated for a while, and Niarra is visited by a tiny bird, the spirit of her mother.

Touching moments such as that, and the explanation of why they must let Tigs go to rest in the safety of the spirit world, are handled gently by Elaine Crombie, who brings her vast story telling experience to this tender tale that brings the mystic spirituality of two nations together.

Photo : Sydney Festival publicity material

With Crombie (Pitjantjatjara & Yankunytjatjara), the talented cast includes Tibian Wyles (Girramay & Kalkadoon), Reuben Butler (Kaitamariki/Tāwhirmātea), Tyler Wilson Kokiri (Māori), Najwa Adams Ebel (Birri-Gubba) and Poroaki Merritt-McDonald (Māori)

Māori designer Jane Hakaraia uses stunning projections to create background for the story – and a cunning combination of two canoe styles for the intrepid youngsters and their thylacine friend’s long sea journey.

Though it is only in Sydney for these two days, the production will go on tour to Perth and Tasmania in March but publicity suggests a “Full itinerary to be announced soon” – so fingers crossed that it will return. To other locations in NSW very soon.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine.

* Opening performance