Imagine if Deadwood, with all its brutality, corruption and colourful characters, was regularly interrupted by WWE Raw Monday night highlights and you’re in the ballpark with Kiwi comedy series Colonial Combat.
Created by actor-turned-filmmaker Julian Arahanga (The Matrix, Once Were Warriors) and set in the coastal town of Kauri Bay circa 1836, the cheerfully anachronistic series takes a pivotal period in New Zealand/Aotearoa history and adds in that magical ingredient: a ton of high-flying wrestling action. In the specific, Colonial Combat principally follows two characters: wrestling promoter Handsome Harold Barker (Mark Hadlow, The Hobbit) and young Maori entrepreneur Tereti (Erroll Anderson).
Hailing from England, the fast-talking Harold arrives in Kauri Bay with a tent, a ring (of the wrestling variety) and an aim to establish a very profitable wrestling franchise. He quickly teams up with local Maori leader Kingi (Lawrence Wharerau, The Piano) to ensure a steady supply of tough nuts willing to beat each other up for the enjoyment of the crowd.
Tereti, for his part, also hails from England – although he has Maori heritage, he is more or less culturally English but wants to reconnect with his ancestral people. He also wants to publish a newspaper and establishes a printing press as part of that plan, producing Bibles in English and Maori for the local missionary. To Harold, a printer with an eye for profit is just the thing to help promote his nascent sideshow.