Evolving show born of personal experience

Rob Mokaraka. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Rob Mokaraka. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

There is a certain tightly focused zeal in actor Rob Mokaraka's delivery as he talks about his show Shot Bro: Confessions of a Depressed Bullet. That is not really a surprise. 

Shot Bro deals with a 2009 incident and its aftermath in which the award-winning actor attempted suicide by police.

He was shot in Pt Chevalier, Auckland after advancing, carrying weapons, on officers.

He recovered from the bullet wound, and has since turned the event into a performance he says is part of the discussion and healing society needs for issues like depression and suicide.

Part of that process is a forum at the end of the show where audience members get to talk about how they feel.

Mokaraka has been touring Shot Bro on and off for the last two years since it premiered in Whangarei in 2016, and is clearly passionate about what he is doing.

He said the content for the show began to take shape shortly after the shooting.

''I'm a writer, so I was writing my thoughts down in hospital.

''I was traumatised, my body was traumatised, my mind was traumatised, and I'm trying to write stuff; feelings, thoughts, emotions.

''I just put all this collection of writings together, basically.

''My guts were wide open, so there's no more hiding.

''You can't hide that you've got a mental health issue.''

Mokaraka put the writings together as a first draft, but at that stage he was not ready to go further.

About three years later he conceived the idea of taking his story to the stage.

''It was a long journey.''

He had multiple workshops with help from others.

''Basically I'm having friends in the art world unpack it.''

Mokaraka described the show as a combination of theatre and Maori tikanga all in one.

''Over 75 minutes audiences are laughing and crying and stunned.''

After that there was ''the real healing part of the show'', a forum where audience members could speak.

''People are sharing tools, not just off-loading, but sharing tools of how they got through it.''

He said the show had ''definitely'' changed in the two years since it began.

''The more I learn about depression, my own depression, the more I learn about unresolved trauma, the more I can get to the guts quicker.''

The way the show was put together by Mokaraka and director Erina Daniels meant ''every time it gets dark and real we pad it with light or humour on either side''.

''So it goes funny-dark, funny-dark, funny-dark. It's evolving.

''The more I learn the more it goes into the show.''

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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