Le Tonu

Polynesian Laboratory: Max Palamo, Fasitua Amosa, Beulah Koale, and Shadon Meredith. (Absent: Amelia Reid-Meredith.)
Polynesian Laboratory: Max Palamo, Fasitua Amosa, Beulah Koale, and Shadon Meredith. (Absent: Amelia Reid-Meredith.)

Further to my earlier burblings, it’s only fair to give my thoughts on the latest iteration of P Lab’s latest work*. Le Tonu (The Decision) spends a day – the birthday of the family patriarch – with three generations of a Samoan family, each with its expectations of life both in New Zealand and in the 21st century.

The actor’s are more polished in their roles – to be expected in a second go-round – and just as near pitch-perfect as last time. The direction is tighter and nigh invisible – the pacing, movement and tone enough to move me to tears again. And the story – very relevant to any adult with parents well into their retirement years – is as sharply told and succinctly performed as before.  It doesn’t overstay its welcome – its hour-long running time is over before you notice it – and grips from beginning to end.

So was I as enamoured of this run as last year? No. This is due in large part to my familiarity with the plot – a lot of the material has carried over from its maiden season, with some beats deepened, and others dropped (and obviously not missed) – and with familiarity a few flaws and Hitchcockian fridge-moments can be discerned.  It’s thanks to the collective’s active ingredients of talent, experience and skills that an entertaining and moving evening of theatre is pretty much guaranteed.

Do I recommend this to friends, family and random strangers?  If they missed last year’s run, then absolutely.  If, like me, friends/family/strangers have seen the previous season and loved it, then I’d suggest that it’s optional – they certainly won’t be disappointed if they revisit the old man’s birthday party.

Disclosure:  the co-directors, Shadon Meredith & Amelia Reid-Meredith, are directing the 2013 premiere season of Goodbye My Feleni, while P Lab principal Fasitua Amosa was in To’ona’i.

*  Don’t worry: reviews of local/ethnic theatre will be rare things here.

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