It’s time to talk about suicide.
That’s the simple reason Queenstown’s Hud Rapata has decided to bring his first and only play — Toa — to the stage at Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall on July 11 and 12, 30 years after writing it.
The 62-year-old, who’s better known as a singer-songwriter, wrote Toa — The Play about a friend he lost to suicide three decades ago, as a way to ‘‘deal with the grief and trauma of the loss I didn’t understand’’.
It was only recently, when speaking to a friend who had lost a daughter to suicide in Arrowtown two years ago, he decided to bring his play to life after lying dormant for so long.
‘‘[My friend told me] she would like to build a platform where she can have conversations with others that have lost people through suicide.
‘‘I then met other people in our community of Queenstown that have lost loved ones to suicide as well.
‘‘The catch-cry [of the play] — ‘It’s time to talk’ — is to allow an open and honest conversation around suicide … to connect our community with support and inspiration.
‘‘To at least put it out there and normalise the conversation, in stead of it being a taboo subject that’s tucked away.’’
Rapata, who’s also the director and narrator, says the play is a ‘‘100% community collaboration’’ with cast and crew all drawn from across the Whakatipu Basin, including his wife, Clare, a voice of one of the characters.
Taking place over three days, Toa — The Play is set in five acts, the first four recount events leading to Toa’s tragic death.
The fifth is Toa’s journey into the afterlife.
But Rapata says the play’s only the first part of the evening.
In keeping with his approach of holistic wellbeing — Te Whare Tapa Whā and whanaungatanga, people’s connection to all people and all things — the performance will be followed by an interactive event involving speakers, waiata, kai and conversation.
This will include talks given by a psychologist, a speaker from the construction industry, and honohono (a form of traditional Māori healing), all of whom have all been impacted by suicide in some way.
‘‘After the play bereaved families will get to talk about their loss and what it meant to them, in a safe space,’’ Rapata says.
‘‘Thirty years on I don’t think anything has changed, the silence around suicide still exists … the only thing that has escalated is the amount of suicide that is actually happening in this day and age.
‘‘[There’s] more suicide now be cause of the disconnection — to your family and friends and not having that ability to reach out.”
Toa — The Play, Tuesday, July 11, and Wednesday, July 12, 7pm- 9pm, Athenaeum Hall. Tickets via Humanitix
● Need to Talk? 1737, free 24/7 phone and text number
● Healthline: 0800 611 116
● Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543 354
● Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865
● Samaritans: 0800 726 666
● General mental health inquiries: 0800 443 366
● The Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757
● Alcohol and Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797
● Meth Help Team: 0800 6384 4357