Jamie McCaskill sets his play in a prison cell where fast-talking Māori and media favourite, Jimmy King, has been in and out of prison since he was 13 and an accessory to murder. While Jimmy might be an outlier outside of prison, his recent petty crimes are well orchestrated to land him back in jail where he seems quite at home. Unfortunately, his new hotshot lawyer is keen get him off the hook!
New to prison is recent Samoan immigrant Mau Vaiaga who has the same lawyer. However she is trying to protect her iwi and needs Mau to take the fall for an act of eco-terroism that he was duped into committing. In the two scenes we’ve had permission to cut together for the tour, we see quiet outlier Mau being tormented by Jimmy’s big mouth as Jimmy learns that Mau’s crime is eating a kākāpō. Somewhere between Jimmy’s laughter and his race-baiting, Mau’s reserve cracks and the two scuffle out their differences.
As the play continues, the lawyer gets Jimmy off with home detention despite his best efforts but our outlier Mau is sentenced to three years inside. The final twist is when Jimmy is returned to prison for murdering the man who ruined Mau.
Inspiration for my writing – Jamie McCaskill
We were lucky to have Jamie visit us in the rehearsal room. We have permission to share a few things he said:
– I’m part Samoan and part Māori so that’s how the play started. I always knew it was going to be between these two guys, one Samoan and one Māori
– I was working with at risk youth at the time. They’re portrayed by the media as having been born bad but in my experience they all have a heart… although they cover it up with bravado.
– So that’s why the play is called Manawa – heart in Māori – because I wanted to show the heart of these guys.
– I wanted to show that an immigrant making a mistake isn’t evil and a guy in and out of prison all his life, he also has a heart.